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What causes cancer?

What causes cancer?

We all hear or read about the word of cancer daily. But have you ever thought what is cancer? What causes this deadly disease? What is its biological basis? It is a very interesting topic and that’s why I have decided to write about it today. People who belong to biological sciences know about it but this article explains cancer for an average person. I will explain in easy words without using scientific terminology so that everyone could easily understand. Hence, in this article I will walk you through;

  • What is cancer?
  • What causes cancer?
  • How it spreads?
  • What are its bases?

What is cancer?

The nature is very economical. Nature has maintained everything under tight regulation. A diseased condition arises when regulatory system is disturbed. Before understanding what is cancer, it is important to know about cell cycle/cell reproduction. All living things are made up of small factories that are basic units of life. These small factories are called cells. Cells divide into daughter cells in a process of cell cycle/cell reproduction.

Nature has created systems that regulate cell cycle and ensure the accurate division of the cells so that everything goes smoothly. But some agents either external or internal disturb this tight regulation and then it causes abnormal division of cells. Cells divide abnormally without control and form clusters of cells. These clusters of cells are of no use to the body instead they consume the nutrients of the healthy cells and keep on dividing. It causes cancer to spread in the body and this abnormal condition is the state of cancer. Cancer can be of any type with respect to the organ where it originates.

What causes cancer?

Tumors are the clusters of cells that divide abnormally and without any control. As I have already stated that nature has designed mechanisms that help things to go smoothly. Two basic mechanisms lie at the basis of cancer. In the human body, the DNA of a cell controls all its activities through basic units. These units are genes. Several types of genes cause cancer but two types are fundamental.

  • Oncogenes (these genes cause cancer and usually they are not active)
  • Tumor suppressor genes (they are active and suppress any deregulation in the cell cycle)
  • Genes that affect the programmed death of cells

Oncogenes are genes that cause the formation of tumors but they are not acting normally. When any carcinogen (agents that can cause cancer) activates them then they deregulate the cell division and hence in this way start the process of tumor formation. Tumor suppressor genes are those genes that are active and control processes to prevent the formation of tumors. But an agent or change in DNA can switch off these genes. When tumor suppressor genes are not active, other factors that cause tumor formation dominate. It also causes cancer.

The third basic mechanism is when genes that regulate the programmed death of cells become defective. Every cell has a certain life and after that span, it suicides and finishes itself. It is a repairing mechanism in the body and vital for health. But when some genes stop this programmed death of the cell and turn it into a cancerous cell. These three are the basic reasons for cancers.

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How cancer spreads?

In cancer, the body produces tumors. These tumors can be of two types. Some tumors stay in their place where born and do not move to other places in the body. These types of tumors are benign (b9) tumors. Other types of tumors do not stay rather move to other places and turn other healthy cells into cancerous ones. These tumors are malignant or cancerous tumors. Benign tumors are not lethal and can be removed easily while cancerous tumors are the main reason of spreading cancer.


I tried to sum up the biological basis of cancer in the simplest words to make it comprehensible for everyone. I hope you have enjoyed it. Share your knowledge and thoughts about cancer in the comment section.


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About The Author


She is a scientific researcher and freelance writer.


  1. Faisal

    can you write more on why cancer is incurable Tasha?

  2. Tasha

    Yes, why not. I will write definitely.


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