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What is cancer and what are its causes?

Cancer is caused by a variety of factors. Cancer, according to scientists, is caused by the interaction of several variables. Genetic, environmental, or constitutional aspects of the individual may be affected.

Childhood malignancies have a different diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis than adult tumours. The key distinctions are cancer’s survival rate and the cause. Childhood cancer has a five-year survival rate of over 80%, while adult cancer has a survival rate of 68 per cent. This disparity is assumed to exist because paediatric cancer responds better to treatment and children may withstand the more rigorous treatment.

Stem cells, which are simple cells capable of creating various types of specialised cells that the body requires, are where many childhood malignancies arise or begin. Childhood cancer is frequently caused by a sporadic (random) cell alteration or mutation. Epithelial cells are the most common type of cell that develops malignant in adulthood. Epithelial cells line the inside of the body cavity and cover the outside of the body. Cancer develops as a result of repeated environmental exposures to these cells. For this reason, adult cancers are sometimes referred to as acquired cancers.

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Risk Factors for Cancer

As previously stated, several malignancies, especially in adults, have been linked to repeated exposures or risk factors. Anything that increases a person’s likelihood of having an illness is referred to as a risk factor. A risk factor may not always cause disease; nonetheless, it might make the body more susceptible to it. Cancer is thought to be caused by the following risk factors and mechanisms:

Factors related to one’s way of life Some lifestyle choices, including smoking, eating a high-fat diet, and working with harmful chemicals, may be risk factors for adult malignancies. The majority of cancer patients, on the other hand, are too young to have been exposed to these lifestyle factors for an extended period of time.

Some childhood malignancies may be linked to family history, heredity, and genetics. It’s conceivable for cancer to run in a family in various forms more than once. It’s unclear whether the sickness is caused by a genetic mutation, exposure to chemicals near a family’s home, a mix of these variables, or simply coincidence in these circumstances.

Some genetic conditions. Wiskott-Aldrich and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndromes, for example, are known to affect the immune system. The immune system is a complicated system that defends our bodies against infection and disease. The bone marrow generates cells that mature and serve as part of the immune system later on. According to one idea, stem cells in the bone marrow become damaged or dysfunctional over time, and when they replicate to form more cells, they produce aberrant cells or cancer cells. An inherited genetic abnormality or exposure to a virus or toxin could be the source of stem cell dysfunction.

Viruses that have been exposed to. Certain paediatric malignancies, including Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, have been related to the Epstein-Barr virus and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The virus may cause a cell to change in some way. That cell then reproduces an altered cell, which eventually develops into a cancer cell capable of reproducing more cancer cells.

Exposure to the environment Pesticides, fertilisers, and electricity lines have all been linked to juvenile malignancies in studies. In some areas and/or cities, there has been evidence of cancer among unrelated children. It’s unclear if prenatal or newborn exposure to these substances causes cancer or if it’s just a coincidence.

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High-dose chemotherapy and radiation are used in some cases. Children who have been exposed to these substances may acquire second cancer later in life in some situations. These potent anticancer drugs have the ability to change cells and/or the immune system. Cancer that develops as a result of the therapy of another cancer is known as a secondary malignancy.

Genes that Cause Cancer

What role do genes have in cancer progression?

The finding of particular types of genes that play a role in cancer has been a huge step forward in cancer research. Over 90% of tumours are found to contain some form of genetic mutation. Some of these changes are hereditary, while others are sporadic, meaning they happen by accident or as a result of exposure to the environment (usually over many years).

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There are several types of cancer genes

The following are three primary types of genes that can affect cell development and are altered (mutated) in specific types of cancers:

Oncogenes are genes that control how cells grow normally. Oncogenes are like cancer “switch” that most people carry in their bodies, according to scientists. It’s unclear what “flips the switch” in these oncogenes, causing them to lose control over normal cell growth and allow aberrant cancer cells to flourish

Tumour suppressor genes are able to detect abnormal cell development and reproduction, such as cancer cells, and can stop them from reproducing until the fault is repaired. However, tumour growth may occur if tumour suppressor genes are altered and do not function effectively.

Mismatch-repair genes: When DNA is copied to produce a new cell, these genes help detect faults. These genes repair the mismatch and rectify the error if the DNA does not “match” precisely. However, if these genes aren’t functioning properly, DNA errors can be passed on to subsequent cells, causing them to be damaged.

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In most of our body tissues, the number of cells is closely regulated to ensure that new cells are produced for regular growth and development as well as to replace dying cells. Cancer is ultimately a loss of balance caused by genetic changes that “tilt the scale” in favour of uncontrolled cell development.

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