The term ‘cancer’ is a collective name for more than 100 diseases with a common characteristic: an uncontrolled division of body cells. Every year about 100,000 people in the Israel get a form of cancer.
Cells and cell division
Cells are the building blocks of our body. Every cell in our body has its own task. Our body makes new cells so that it can grow and replace damaged or old cells. New cells are created by cell division; cells make copies of themselves. The functioning of our cells, and cell division, is driven by the information within the nucleus of the cells. This information is in the DNA, the hereditary material that is passed on from parent to child.
The origin of cancer
Errors can occur during cell division. There can be several reasons for this. Usually these mistakes are corrected by our body itself, but sometimes it does not happen. If there are a number of errors in the same cell, this cell will divide itself in an uncontrolled manner. This creates a group of cells with errors. Such a group of cells often take the form of a swelling called tumor.
Benign or malicious
A tumor can be benign or malicious:
A benign tumor does not grow through other tissues or organs. It does not spread in the body. A wart is an example of a benign tumor. If a benign tumor presses against surrounding tissues or organs, this can be a reason to remove it.
A malignant tumor can grow and damage surrounding tissues and organs. Cells can become detached from a malignant tumor and enter the body through the blood and / or lymph and develop into new tumors. This is what we call metastases, or metastases.
Only malignant tumors are called cancer.
A lengthy process
All types of cancer start when the DNA in a cell is damaged, which can lead to unrestrained cell division. However, cancer does not arise at once. This is often a lengthy and complicated process. Before the disease develops, many changes must take place in the cell. This can take years, sometimes even decades. That is why cancer is a disease that affects many elderly people.
DNA can be damaged by various factors. These include genetic factors, an unhealthy lifestyle, our living environment and infections. There are many measures you can take now to prevent the development of cancer later in life.
Risk factors for cancer
Several factors can play a role in the development of cancer. Research shows that the choices you make in your diet and lifestyle are also important here. Read below about the main factors that can affect your risk of cancer.
Only five to ten percent of cancer cases arise from specifically inherited genes. For example, genes have been discovered that increase the risk of breast or colon cancer. Fortunately, these are rare. If there is a lot of cancer in your family, and you are worried about it, it is advised to discuss this with your doctor.
If you have these genes, you are more susceptible to cancer, but that does not mean that you will actually get cancer. You do have an above-average high risk of cancer. But even then you can often reduce your chances of cancer due to the choices you make in your lifestyle. A proper care and treatment from dedicated medical centers like Sheba Hospital can help you prevent this disease.
Some infectious diseases can increase the risk of certain types of cancer. HPV (human papillomavirus) is known as a risk factor for cervical cancer, while infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori is associated with gastric cancer. Hepatitis B and C increase the risk of liver cancer. By vaccination we can reduce the risk of spreading some of these infections.
Some factors in the living environment can increase the risk of cancer, or even cause cancer. For example, over-exposure to the sun is a risk factor for skin cancer. That is why it is important that you protect yourself from bright sunlight.
Certain chemicals, excessive exposure to X-rays and some drugs can also damage the DNA and thereby increase the risk of cancer. Some of these risk factors are primarily a concern for people who are professionally exposed to such factors.
Nutrition and lifestyle
Approximately one third of the most common cancers in Western countries are related to unhealthy food and lifestyle. In this estimate, the cases of cancer caused by smoking are not included. Not smoking (or stopping) is one of the most important measures to reduce the risk of cancer. After smoking, obesity is the most important risk factor for cancer that we have an influence on.