More than 100 different types of cancer have been identified to date. Generally speaking, all forms of cancer start as out-of-control growth of abnormal cells. Abnormal cells may collect into a tumor, and infiltrate and destroy tissues surrounding it. Cells can also multiply to create more tumors and/or spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).
Cancer of the blood or bone cancer, for example, does not involve tumors. It is important to note that not all tumors are cancerous (malignant); tumors that aren’t life threatening are called benign.
Regardless of where cancer may spread or not spread, the case is named for where the cancer started. For example, skin cancer (melanoma, or sarcoma) is cancer that started in skin cells, uterine cancer is cancer that started in uterine tissue.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Some things you may want to know about cancer are:
- What causes cancer? Increased risk for developing cancer can be caused by either something people do (smoking, excessive sun exposure), something they’re exposed to (radiation, certain chemicals), or something that is in their family history (about one out of every 20 cases is inherited from parents). Continuing research is trying to get to the bottom of why certain things attribute to increased cancer risk, and how abnormal cell growth starts. Each type of cancer is different and occurs differently according to research findings.
- Can injuries cause cancer? It is a common myth that injuries can open the door to cancer. Sometimes a fall, bruise or broken bone can cause a person to go to the doctor, and cancer is found in the process of mending the injury. But the injury didn’t cause the cancer. The cancer was already there, and may have actually caused a weakened state that attributed to the injury.
- Can stress cause cancer? There is no definitive link between cancer and stress. Studies conducted have found differing conclusions about increased risk for developing cancer and those with high amounts of psychological stress in their lives.
- Is cancer contagious? Cancer cannot be “caught” like a cold or flu, by being around or touching someone with cancer.
- Can cancer be prevented? There are certain things you can do to try and avoid being at higher risk for developing certain forms of cancer, such as not smoking, not drinking alcohol excessively, avoiding over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light (sun exposure or tanning beds). Other things you can do to help lower cancer risk is to eat a healthy diet, and keep up with regular checkups with the doctor to ensure early treatment of any illness including cancer.
This information is not meant to be a replacement for talking with your doctor. Talk with your team of doctors to get the full picture for your particular case.
www.cancer.org Questions People Ask About Cancer
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Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.