Cancer, the leading cause of death in the developed world and the second leading cause of death in the developing world, is a terrifying set of multiple diseases characterized by abnormal and uncontrollable division and growth of cells in the body typically resulting in Tumour and metastasis (spread to other organs). There are more than 100 different types of cancer and these are grouped according to the type of cell in which they originated. Cancers are usually named using –carcinoma, -sarcoma or -blastoma as a suffix, with the Latin or Greek word for the organ or tissue of origin as the root. Every single case of cancer is unique, with its own set of genetic changes and growth properties. There is no one magic cure for cancer anymore than there is a single cure for all types of infectious diseases.
While scientific understanding of cancer mechanisms has improved immeasurably, science is still a very long way from universal cures, although there is promising progress in some areas. However, it should never be forgotten cancer is largely preventable. Cancers are primarily an environmental disease with 90-95% of cases attributed to environmental factors and 5-10% due entirely to genetics. The term ‘ environmental ’ as used by cancer researchers means any cause that is not genetic, not merely pollution. Smoking is represented in about a third of all cancer deaths in the developed world, and about 20% worldwide. In the United States, the sexually transmitted “human papillomavirus” (hpv) – not to be confused with the Aids virus HIV – is expected to replace smoking as the main trigger for oral cancer. Other common environmental factors include diet, obesity, smoking, infections, radiation, lack of physical activity, and environmental pollutants. In reality, it is nearly impossible to prove what precisely caused a cancer in any individual since most cancers have multiple possible causes.
Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer for the sheer number it kills followed in order by stomach cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer. Pancreatic cancer, which Apple founder Steve Jobs had, has the worst prognosis. 80% of men have prostrate cancer by the age of 80, even if it is not the condition that kills them. It has been cited as one reason why if we all lived long enough, we would all eventually succumb to a cancer of one type or another. This is because our immune system is forever weakening as we age, while DNA errors accumulate over our lifetime and harmful age-related changes affect our system of glands which regulate hormones in our body. The chances of surviving cancer vary greatly by the type and location of the cancer and the extent of disease at the start of treatment. While cancer can affect people of all ages, and a few types of cancer are more common in children, the risk of developing cancer generally increases with age.
There are three main hallmarks of cancer. The first is a problem with over-expression of oncogenes which promote cell growth and reproduction, and / or under-expression of Tumour suppressor genes which inhibit cell division and survival. These mutations cause the breakdown of normal cell controls.