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chelle21689's avatar

What really causes cancer cells to form?

Asked by chelle21689 (5450 points ) February 15th, 2013

What causes them to randomly start occurring? I mean it sucks to know that even if you eat healthy, be active, and watch your environmental factors that it’s still LITTLE to do with cancer.

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22 Answers

livelaughlove21's avatar

Cancer forms when normal cells become damaged or changed, producing mutated cells that divide and do not die like normal cells do (apoptosis). These mutated cells build up to form a tumor. If the cells spread (metasisize) and invade surrounding tissues, it is a malignant (cancerous) tumor.

What causes this could be random, like you said, with no real explanation, but there are way too many other factors that would take a lot of time to go through.

ragingloli's avatar

cancer cells are human cells that undergo constant uncontrolled mitosis.

thorninmud's avatar

Every time a human cell divides, it has to copy a sequence of 3 billion nucleotides. This copying is amazingly accurate for the most part, and even when mistakes happen, there are mechanisms that fix most errors. But occasionally the errors survive. In a small number of these, the result is a cancerous cell.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Cosmic rays, viruses, genetics, chemicals, x-rays, ultraviolet light, radiation and bad luck.

Been there had that !

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Cell mutations aren’t that uncommon, but normally your immune system edits them out. For some reason the immune system doesn’t figure out those cells aren’t right. If they could figure out why they would have a way to treat cancer a lot better.

muhammajelly's avatar

Don’t think of cancer cells as forming. All cells which can reproduce are cancer cells with special controls in place to limit their spread. All cells sustain damage as they pass through time and eventually some of this damage will disable the aforementioned controls. The cancer already inside you is closer to winning every day as you are progressively damaged from all angles from just about everything.

KNOWITALL's avatar

My cousin’s a nurse and says that we’re pretty much all dying of cancer. I don’t know anything about it except it’s odd that some smokers live to be really old and some really healthy people die young for no reason. Odd that.

muhammajelly's avatar

@KNOWITALL Your cousin is correct. It is just a question of when. Why is it odd some smokers live to be really old or that some people die young? Health is about probability of results not the results themselves. If your result data set is small enough, an individual person, you could see any result out several standard deviations.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@muhammajelly Huh, I kind of thought she was full of it….It’s odd because all my life I’ve heard “don’t smoke, you’ll die of cancer” and now all of them are old or dead, and the smokers are the ones surviving. It’s like a bad joke or something.

chelle21689's avatar

so depressing to hear. =\ Currently having a friend who was diagnozed with cancer 2 weeks ago and is now having his health rapidly decline and could be gone any minute now.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@chelle21689 Where is it and is it aggressive? Sorry, my mom’s waiting on body scan results to see if she’s still clear from hers.

muhammajelly's avatar

@KNOWITALL The only real way to prevent cancer is to die of something else first. Smoking increases your risk of cancer first but not-smoking doesn’t “decrease” it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@muhammajelly Does not compute, that is illogical.

So why aren’t we call getting full body scans every year instead of an occasional piece of random tissue sample? Have we started governmental culling already? lol

LuckyGuy's avatar

@KNOWITALL The odds of a smoker dying of lung cancer are about 1 in 200. The odds of a non- smoker dying of lung cancer iare about 1 in 4000. (My numbers must be a little off since I remember the rate was 27 times greater for smokers vs non-smokers.)

livelaughlove21's avatar

“Everyone is basically dying of cancer.”

What a cynical way of looking at life.

muhammajelly's avatar

@KNOWITALL Lots of people die that could have gotten a well-timed medical test and been saved. Some people die because they didn’t get a test due to being lazy or not knowing of it or not wanting something stuck up their ass. However often instead they didn’t get this test because the cost was too high, the time investment too great, limited availability of the test, or because the test itself had risks. One day we might be scanned for cancer multiple times per day and people will talk about the days when lumps were something you checked for in the shower with fingers but that day hasn’t come yet.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m not exactly answerng the question, but regarding the discussion here, I was recently readong the book Eat to Live and the author gives studies that show communities that eat basically a plant based diet have much fewer cancers. He talks about the mediteranean diet and how everyone thought they should eat olive oil, and he argues it was the vegetables and low amount of animal protein in the diet that really was the protector form heart disease and cancers.

I also have seen studies about the low calorie diets that demonstrate very low rates of disease and longevity.

I also think there are genetic predispositions to cancers, well we have proven there are.

Anyway, I think at least in America even when we think we are doing everything as right as we can, we are often way far off the mark from really being very healthy.

LostInParadise's avatar

Evolution. Some small percentage of cells mutate into rogue cells, reproducing without limit. Those that are most successful at evading the immune system will mutate into rogue cells that are even better at evading the immune system. This continues until fully cancerous cells result.

Earthgirl's avatar

It is such a complex process and not simple to explain. One of the current approaches to understanding cancer and how it grows and multiplies is angiogenesis. Here is a brief excerpt :
“Cancer cells are cells that have lost their ability to divide in a controlled fashion. A tumor consists of a population of rapidly dividing and growing cancer cells.
Mutations rapidly accrue within the population. These mutations (variation) allow the cancer cells (or sub-populations of cancer cells within a tumor) to develop drug resistance and escape therapy. Tumors cannot grow beyond a certain size, generally 1–2 mm³ , due to a lack of oxygen and other essential nutrients.

Tumors induce blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) by secreting various growth factors (e.g. Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor or VEGF).
Growth factors such as bFGF and VEGF can induce capillary growth into the tumor, which some researchers suspect supply required nutrients, allowing for tumor expansion.
On 18 July 2007 it was discovered that cancerous cells stop producing the anti-VEGF enzyme PKG. In normal cells (but not in cancerous ones), PKG apparently limits beta-catenin which solicits angiogenesis. ”
What I really found fascinating is the story of Jonah Folkman the surgeon who pioneered research on angiogenesis in tumors. He had to deal with being called a charleton and having people walk out on his medical conferences. The story of his medical research reads like a fascinating detective novel. Here is the NOVA program about him and his research.

@chelle21689 I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s illness.

chelle21689's avatar

Yeah very aggressive it’s pancreatic. He passed a few days ago.

JLeslie's avatar

Sorry for your loss. I’m assuming he was very young? My husband’s cousin died in her 40’s from pancreatic cancer. It’s awful.

Pancreatic is one of the worst because by the time you are symptomatic it is usually too late. Most people, something like 90%) die within 2 years of diagnosis, many within several months. Steve Jobs, the Apple guy, actually found his very early, could have had surgery, but he was still enough of a hippy that he refused and wanted to do natural things like better eating. I think he actually lived another 8 years, but mostly because his initial diagnosis was found so early. Later he regretted not getting the surgery, when it was too late and inoperable. Justice Ruth Ginsburg had her pancreatic cancer found during a routine CT scan, mni small, and they cut it with surgery and she has been fine.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@chelle21689 I sorry you lost your friend. Pancreatic cancer is bad news. Keep his memories in your heart.

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