How does cancer develop?

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Each day, millions of cells die inside the body, while new cells are formed, as dying cells first divide and give rise to the next generation of cells to sustain the body’s integrity. The point of time the cell dies (apoptosis) is already determined in its genetic make-up when it is created. When it divides, it passes on these attachments along with all other information to the newly developing cells: e.g. their look, their function, how often they are designated to propagate, and also when they are supposed to die.

Mistakes in this highly complex division process will result in degenerate or faulty cells. A degenerate cell may simply die, or in special cases, it may continue to divide and produce more degenerate cells. This is how a tumour develops, which is actually just a collection of degenerate cells. People with an increased risk of cancer due to genetic reasons may seek genetic counseling to help assess this risk and to provide insights into possible means of prevention.

Considering the fact that every day millions of cells follow their predetermined path of division and death, it becomes clear that “accidents” can also happen somewhere in the body every day and degenerate cells can arise. However, under normal circumstances, our immune system is able to handle the situation. For example, white blood cells (leukocytes) have the task of recognizing and destroying “cellular waste” by literally “eating up” degenerate cells. Only if degenerate cells “flood” the body or the immune system is weakened, cancer will result from these “faulty” cells.

Due to their altered functioning, cancer cells will not respond to growth-modulating signals. They allow themselves to be fed by blood vessels so that they can multiply unhindered. This resulting carcinoma can increasingly press on neighbouring organs and ultimately damage them as well. In addition, cancer cells can leave their site of origin and and migrate throughout the body, resulting in metastases in remote organs or body parts, and affecting their functions.

Numerous different types of cancer are known, most of which differ considerably in terms of their severity and treatment options. There is usually no clear cause/effect relationship. However, the development of a tumour can be promoted by many factors. External factors such as reduced micronutrient intake (vitamins, minerals, trace elements), alcohol, nicotine, pollutants in food, environmental toxins, radiation and viruses, for example, can have an unfavourable influence on cell division.

Internal factors such as stress and psychological strains can also have a similar effect. Last but not least, it is also known that certain forms of cancer come with the risk of genetic transmission.