Cancer: The Deadly Killer

Cancer is the greatest enemy of human life and cancer causes about 8.0 million human deaths worldwide, that is about 13% of all deaths that occur in an year.

Cancer, a malignant neoplasm, is a broad group of various diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow without control, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the body through the lymphatic systemor bloodstream.

Cancers are primarily an environmental disease with 90-95% of cases attributed to environmental factors and 5-10% due to genetics. Environmental means any cause that is not genetic, not merely pollution. Common environmental factors that contribute to cancer death include tobacco (25-30%), diet and obesity (30-35%), infections (15-20%), radiation, both ionizing and non-ionizing, (up to 10%), stress, lack of physical activity, and environmental pollutants.

Cancers are classified by the type of cell that the tumor cells resemble and are therefore presumed to be the origin of the tumor. These types include:

  • Carcinoma: Cancers derived from epithelial cells. This group includes many of the most common cancers, particularly in the aged, and include nearly all those developing in the breast, prostate, lung, pancreas, and colon.
  • Sarcoma: Cancers arising from connective tissue (i.e. bone, cartilage, fat, nerve), each of which develop from cells originating in mesenchymal cells outside the bone marrow.
  • Lymphoma and leukemia: These two classes of cancer arise from hematopoietic (blood-forming) cells that leave the marrow and tend to mature in the lymph nodes and blood, respectively.
  • Germ cell tumor: Cancers derived from pluripotent cells, most often presenting in the testicle or the ovary (seminoma and dysgerminoma, respectively).
  • Blastoma: Cancers derived from immature “precursor” cells or embryonic tissue. These are also most common in children.

However, the methods of diagnosis and treatment of various types of cancers have improved vastly. Precautions also can be taken reduce the risk of cancer.

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