Cancer is a disease that occurs when abnormal cells multiply uncontrollably and invade other cells which results in the destruction of healthy cells and tissues thereby creating health problems. Cancer occurs in almost any tissue or organ of the body, but some types of cancer are more life threatening than others.

Although scientists are yet to completely understand the possible causes of cancer, they know that certain lifestyle choices and patterns can help to reduce the risk of developing many types of cancer. Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day, a healthy diet and abstinence from smoking can lower the likelihood of developing cancer.

Causes Of Cancer

1. Carcinogens

Prolonged or repeated exposure to carcinogens is one of the greatest risk factors for developing cancer. Carcinogens are biological, chemical or physical agents that lead to cellular damage and result in cancer. Exposure to carcinogens when coupled with the effect of aging, results in an increase in the body chemicals referred to as free radicals. When the number of these free radicals in the body is in excess, it causes damage by taking electrons (negatively charged particles) from key cellular components of the body, such as DNA. This could make the genes more susceptible / vulnerable to the mutating effects of carcinogens.

2. Tobacco smoke

Cancer of the lungs, respiratory tract, esophagus, bladder, pancreas, stomach, kidney and liver are all associated with smoking. The number of cigarettes inhaled per day, the cigarette content and the number of years one has been into smoking determines the risk level for cancer in an individual. Smoking at an early age significantly increases the risk of the individual developing cancer.  Pipes, cigars and smokeless tobacco also increases the risk of cancer in an individual. Oral cancer also occurs more frequently in an individual who takes snuff or smokeless tobacco. Snuff users are more likely to develop cancer of the gum or cheek than non users.

3. Diet

Unhealthy diets also contribute to cancer. Excessive intake of saturated fat from red meat, such as steak or hamburger, and dairy products with high fat are associated with several cancers. Excessive salt intake also increases the risk of stomach cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus and stomach especially if combined with smoking.

4. Pathogens

Pathogens are organisms that cause diseases. They include the protozoa, bacteria and viruses. Viruses that cause diseases include human papillomavirus (HPV), this virus is sexually transmitted and it causes cancer of the cervix.

Also Hepatitis B and C viruses also cause cancer of the liver, while Epstein-Barr virus causes cancer of the lymphatic system. Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium associated with stomach ulcers, likely causes stomach cancer. Infestation with the liver fluke Clonorchis sinensis causes a form of liver cancer. Infestation with the parasite Schistosoma haematobium causes cancer of the bladder.

5. Radiation

When an individual is exposed to electromagnetic radiation, high energy light waves like x-rays and sunlight, overtime, it could result to skin cancer, which in turn leads to death. Sun rays that reaches the earth surface has two types of ultra violet (UV) radiation. UV-A and UV-B and these both contribute to sunburn and skin cancer as well as premature wrinkling of the skin.

The ozone layer which absorbs ultraviolet radiations in the atmosphere has been depleted and so, there will be a continuous increase in skin damage and skin cancer rates in years to come. Also, exposure to radiation associated with medical treatments, such as therapeutic radiology, also leads to cancer.

6. Environmental and Occupational Chemicals

Pollution (air and water) and pollutants found in the soil particularly contribute to bladder and lung cancer. There are high rates of lung cancer in cities where lots of industries and automobiles produce air pollution. Most people inhale or come in contact with carcinogenic chemicals in their working environment. These occupational carcinogens include industrial chemicals such as arsenic, vinyl chloride, benzene, asbestos, aniline dyes and certain petroleum products.

7. Hereditary Factors

Heredity plays a role in cancer development. Some genetic mutations that lead to cancer are inherited. For example, when a tumor suppressor gene BRCA1 and BRCA2 is inherited by a woman, it increases her chances of developing breast cancer. Many other heredity factors that affect how an individual reacts to carcinogenic substances are also inherited.

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