The Causes of Cancer

The body is composed of trillions of cells, and in most tissues, they are gradually but constantly renewed. This is normally a controlled process, so that overall, just enough new cells are produced to replace the old, dead ones. Problems can occur when new, abnormal cells are formed whose multiplication cannot be controlled by the body.

What is Cancer?

Usually, the body's immune system rapidly destroys any abnormal cells. Cancer comes about when an abnormal cell, unchecked by the immune system, begins to multiply uncontrolledly. When a group of abnormal cells is produced, in time a tumor can form.

Tumours that are cancerous are often described as "malignant," and they have a tendency to spread, not only locally, but also to distant parts of the body. A cancer that has spread from an original site is known as a metastasis or secondary, the original being referred to as the primary. In the industrialized world, one in three people will develop cancer at some point in their lives, and one in every four people will die from the disease.

What Causes Cancer?

Because cancer is actually a collection of different diseases, there are a large number of potential causes, and risk factors for one type of cancer may not be the same for another. Smoking, for example, is the main risk factor in lung cancer, but not skin cancer.

At the heart of the cancer-causing process are destructive substances, generated when the body's cells use oxygen to burn food for energy. This process of combustion can lead to the production of free radical molecules that can, in turn, damage cells, setting off undesirable biochemical reactions that may trigger cancer.

Medical Treatment

Malignant tumours, if left without treatment, almost invariably prove fatal. Treatment is usually in the form of drug therapy (chemotherapy), radiotherapy, surgery, or a combination of the three. The aim of surgery is usually to stop the cancer from spreading. Some cancers are more easily cured than others. What is almost universally true is that, the earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the better the outlook and the better the prospects of a full recovery.

The Role of Antioxidants in Cancer

Antioxidant nutrients such as the vitamins A, C, E, and the mineral selenium protect against cancer because they interfere with the very processes that trigger cancer, and at the same time stimulate the immune system to destroy cancer cells before they get into their stride. Essentially, the more antioxidants there are present in our body, the less chance there is of our getting cancer. So reducing our risk of cancer is really a matter of keeping our antioxidant defenses in good shape.

While there is no unequivocal evidence that alterations in diet can alter the progress of the disease once it has become established, it makes sense for anyone suffering from cancer to boost their intake of antioxidants to give their body the help it needs in its fight against the disease. A healthful vitamin-rich diet forms a vital part of the care offered by specialized cancer units.

Source : Readers Digest

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