Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide with nearly 7.6 million deaths in 2008. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in the U.S., there are 11,958,00 million of people affected by all types of invasive cancer. In men, the most common cancer is prostate cancer. While in women, breast cancer is prevalent.
Cancers develop when healthy cells are transformed or changed either in the DNA or the structure of the chromosome. The change can be due to carcinogenic factors or through spontaneous transformation in the cells by themselves.
There is no main cause of cancer, although there are risk factors involved making a person susceptible to the disease like genetics, environmental reasons, or radiation. Genetics can cause cancer. Certain families are at greater risks for contracting cancer because their genetic makeup is predisposed towards cancer. This may be due to a single gene or several genes that are linked together. A person who has Down's Syndrome will have 12 to 20 times higher risks of contracting leukemia because there are 3 instead of 2 chromosome 21.
Age is also another risk factor with some cancers occurring only in young children. Examples of these cancers are Wilms' tumor and neuroblastoma. Cancer also occurs in elderly people with those older than 65 at greater risk for contracting some type of cancer. The risk also doubles every five years due to prolonged exposures to carcinogens and a weaker immune system as age sets in.
Environmental factors are also things to consider. Air pollution is one whether it is due from carbon monoxide emissions, industrial waste or cigarette smoking. Inhalation of these carcinogenic particles or prolonged exposure to these element can cause cancer. There are also elements in the air that may cause cancer. Asbestos causes lung cancer. Combustion from cigarette smoking produces 4000+ chemicals that are inhaled by the smoker causing cancer of the lung, kidney, bladder, throat, mouth, and larynx. The onset of cancer does not happen immediately. In fact, it may be many years before any type of cancer as a result of exposure to harmful chemicals may be detected.
Radiation can also cause cancer of the skin brought by exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. There are also other radiation sources such as radioactive radon gas. When a person is exposed to these elements, it increases the risk for contracting cancer. A person who smokes and at the same time is unknowingly exposed to radon gas will have twice the risk for contracting cancer.
Certain types of inflammatory diseases can cause cancer. For example, ulcerative colitis can lead to cancer of the colon while parasite infection (Bilharzia) is the culprit in cancer of the bladder. The lifestyles and habits of people cause cancer as well with those smoking or chewing tobacco products at high risk. Alcohol consumption is also another lifestyle increasing the risk for cancer. GeIt is not very clear how the location of a person can cause cancer. However, statistics indicate that certain ethnic groups develop cancer when they move to a different country. As an example, Japan has a low risk of breast and colon cancer, yet when the Japanese move to the US, the risks of contracting these diseases are the same as the rest of the population. There are also viruses that are prevalent in certain countries such as the Epstein-Barr virus causing Burkitt's lymphoma in Africa and nose and throat cancers in China (Merck facts).
A person's diet may also cause cancer. People who are eating high fat diets are at higher risks for getting cancer of the breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Alcohol drinkers are at risk of contracting esophageal cancer while those who are fond of eating smoked and pickled foods are at risk of getting stomach cancer.
Genital warts are known to cause cancer among women leading to cancer of the cervix while the Hepatitis B virus is tied to liver cancer. The human body is known to fight diseases, but in situations where the immune system is weakened as a result of HIV infection and AIDS, cancer can develop.
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