Cancer is a complex disease, with more than 100 kinds of cancer affecting different
parts of the body in many different ways. Many factors can influence the risk of
getting cancer; the goal of the next several blogs is to help you to avoid cancer by adopting a
healthy lifestyle and having appropriate screening tests.
Cancer occurs when some of the cells in the body become abnormal and grow out-of-control. This happens when the DNA that regulates cellular growth undergoes changes called mutations that sometimes turn out to be harmful. DNA (deoxyribonucleic
acid) is the genetic “blueprint” found in each cell of the body. Genes are
the sub-units of DNA where mutations occur. Genes regulate the synthesis of the
protein building blocks of the body that are needed for its growth, structure, and
function. Genes determine inherited traits, such as hair and eye color. The genes
that are inherited can already have flaws, or genes can undergo mutations that can
increase susceptibility to or cause cancer and some other diseases.
In a normal cell, when DNA is damaged, the cell may repair the damage, or the
cell may die. When a cell becomes cancerous, the damaged (mutated) DNA is not
repaired, the cell doesn’t die at an appropriate time as it normally would, and the
cell goes on making new abnormal and unneeded cells, all with the same damaged
DNA. Usually, several mutations are needed before a cell becomes cancerous. Mutations
alone are not enough to produce a cancer. The damaged cell must be stimulated
by “tumor promoters.” For example, estrogen is a promoter that stimulates the
growth of breast cells.
Unlike normal cells, cancerous cells keep growing and can invade normal tissues.
When cancer cells spread and grow in places beyond the tissue where they originated,
the new growths are called metastases. Many types of cancer form tumors,
others, like leukemia, involve bone marrow and other blood-forming organs, and
when the cancer cells circulate through the bloodstream, they too can grow in other
Untreated, cancer can grow slowly or rapidly, and, unfortunately, even when treated,
cancer often causes serious illness and death by invading vital organs and interfering
with bodily functions that are necessary for life. Benign tumors are growths
that are not cancerous, but they can cause problems or even death if they grow large
enough to impinge on and impair the function of healthy organs and tissues. Benign
tumors do not grow into other tissues or metastasize, so they are much less likely to
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel