What is cancer?

How does cancer begin?

Ever cell in your body is an extremely busy little "factory," with thousands of biological and chemical interactions occurring every second. Each cell is working hard to control the use of oxygen and various nutrients, communicate messages, create new substances, and build new cells. In any given day, there are more of these regulatory interactions occurring within one cell than there are interactions among people in New York City. At every moment of our lives, without our knowing it, the trillions of cells in our bodies avert potential damage and miscommunication, rid us of potentially toxic substances, repair injured cells, prevent cells with damaged genetic material from reproducing, and keep us in good health. Cells need the support of good nutrition to carry out this work.

Cancer begins when cell goes haywire. as one cell divides into two in the normal growth process, it is easy for things to go wrong. In particular, it is easy for a cell's DNA--the genetic blueprint deep inside the cell's nucleus--to become damaged. If a cell is impaired so it begins multiplying out of control, that is the beginning of cancer.

Cancers most commonly occur where there is continual turnover and division of cells. For example:

--in the skin, lungs, and digestive tract, which continually slough of old cells and build new cells

--in organs that secrete substances, such as the breast, with it ability to produce milk

--in organs of reproduction: the uterus, ovary, and testes.

In each of these parts of the body, cells are rapidly dividing. If DNA is damaged in the process, cell reproduction becomes disordered, resulting in uncontrolled cell growth. Eventually this growing mass of cells, called a tumor, invades the healthy tissue of the lungs, breast, prostate, or other part of the body.

Healthy Eating for Life to Prevent and Treat Cancer, Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine.

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