Wikipedia gives the following introduction to cancer.
Cancer, known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a broad group of various diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, 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 system or bloodstream. Not all tumors are cancerous. Benign tumors do not grow uncontrollably, do not invade neighboring tissues, and do not spread throughout the body.
Determining what causes cancer is complex. Many things are known to increase the risk of cancer, including tobacco use, certain infections, radiation, lack of physical activity, poor diet and obesity, and environmental pollutants. These can directly damage genes or combine with existing genetic faults within cells to cause the disease. Approximately five to ten percent of cancers are entirely hereditary.
Cancer can be detected in a number of ways, including the presence of certain signs and symptoms, screening tests, or medical imaging. Once a possible cancer is detected it is diagnosed by microscopic examination of a tissue sample. Cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. The chances of surviving the disease vary greatly by the type and location of the cancer and the extent of disease at the start of treatment. While cancer can affect people of all ages, and a few types of cancer are more common in children, the risk of developing cancer generally increases with age. In 2007, cancer caused about 13% of all human deaths worldwide (7.9 million). Rates are rising as more people live to an old age and as mass lifestyle changes occur in the developing world.
Scientists are investigating cancer from a large variety of viewpoints. If they are successful, they will significantly lengthen the life-span of humans. Here are some of the scientific results of their research.
New findings show that eating a high-fat diet beginning at puberty speeds up the development of breast cancer and may actually increase the risk of cancer similar to a type often found in younger adult women.
Postmenopausal women who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely to develop the most common type of endometrial cancer compared with women who did not drink sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Cancer treatment takes a toll on the hearts of child survivors, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013.
A recent study by a University of Missouri researcher shows that resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins and red wine, can make certain tumor cells more susceptible to radiation treatment. This research, which studied melanoma cells, follows a previous MU study that found similar results in the treatment of prostate cancer. The next step is for researchers to develop a successful method to deliver the compound to tumor sites and potentially treat many types of cancers.
High levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the "good cholesterol," are thought to protect against heart disease. However, what’s good for one disease may not be good for another. High levels of HDL have also been linked to increased breast cancer risks and to enhanced cancer aggressiveness in animal experiments.
A chemical found in red wine remains effective at fighting cancer even after the body's metabolism has converted it into other compounds.
"More and more heavy drinking is occurring on college campuses and during adolescence, and not enough people are considering future risk. But, according to our research, the lesson is clear: If a female averages a drink per day between her first period and her first full-term pregnancy, she increases her risk of breast cancer by 13 percent," said co-author Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, associate director for cancer prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.
"We were surprised at the number of cancer sites that were positively associated with height. In this data set, more cancers are associated with height than were associated with body mass index [BMI]," said Geoffrey Kabat, Ph.D., senior epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, N.Y. "Ultimately, cancer is a result of processes having to do with growth, so it makes sense that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk."
A second large, prospective study by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has confirmed the link between high blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and an increased risk of prostate cancer.
"Young, developing skin may be particularly vulnerable to UV rays," said Lawrence Eichenfield, MD, chief of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego. "If your child is getting intense sun exposure playing outdoors, she's in danger of developing melanoma -- the most serious type of skin cancer -- even if she has what appears to be a healthy tan."
"Heart failure patients are not only at an increased risk for developing cancer, but the occurrence of cancer increases mortality in these patients," explained Dr. Veronique Roger, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery and co-author of the study. "These findings underscore the importance of cancer surveillance in the management of heart failure patients."
Aspirin is known to lower risk for some cancers, and a new study led by a UC San Francisco scientist points to a possible explanation, with the discovery that aspirin slows the accumulation of DNA mutations in abnormal cells in at least one pre-cancerous condition.
Chemotherapy with anthracyclines, such as Doxorubicin, is one of the most effective treatments against many types of cancer, including leukaemia and Hodgkin's lymphoma, breast, lung, and ovarian cancer. However it can also lead to irreversible heart damage, which may not be apparent until several years after treatment. Being able to detect this damage at an early stage, in order to initiate preventative therapy of affected people, is especially important in children.
Trichloroethylene (TCE) exposure has possible links to increased liver cancer risk, and the relationship between TCE exposure and risks of cancers of low incidence and those with confounding by lifestyle and other factors need further study, according to a study published May 30 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Obese men were more likely to have precancerous lesions detected in their benign prostate biopsies compared with nonobese men and were at a greater risk for subsequently developing prostate cancer, according to data published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
The role of aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, in preventing and treating cancer has intrigued researchers since the late 1980s, when an Australian study found that people who regularly used aspirin were less likely to develop colorectal cancer. Aspirin use also has been shown to reduce the risk of squamous cell esophageal cancer and prostate cancer.
Numerous epidemiologic studies have shown that a diet high in salt is associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer. Now Timothy L. Cover and colleagues of Vanderbilt University show that high dietary salt combined with infection by the ulcer-causing bacterium Helicobacter pylori greatly increases the risk of cancer.
Many people survive their cancers, but end up dying of cardiovascular disease (CVD). New research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center finds that CVD risk factors may be overlooked during survivorship care.