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Causes of Cancer: What Are The Risk Factors for Cancer?

Admin November 13 2021 Share this:

According to the World Cancer Report, in 2018, there were an estimated 1.16 million new cancer cases, 784,800 deaths due to cancer, and about 2.26 million prevalent cases. If we see it globally, according to the 2019 estimation, about 18.1 million new cancer cases have been added. The WHO report says, one among 10 Indians will fall prey to this deadly disease. And, one in 15 persons will die of cancer during their lifetime. This is literally horrifying. The underlying causes of cancer, however, can be attributed to multiple factors such as genetic, constitutional characteristics of the person, and in some cases environmental.

What Are The Causes of Cancer?

Cancer is referred to as the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells which ultimately destroy the normal tissues of the body. The cancerous cells have the ability to spread throughout the body that in most cases leads to death. Even though cancer is the “second leading cause” for deaths globally, technological development and advancement in cancer screening & treatment have improved the survival rates to a greater extent. 

Cancerous cells usually appear in a particular area in our body and then they spread throughout the body via lymph nodes. Some cancers form tumors that are visible while some don’t. Cancer can occur in different parts of the body such as skin, muscle, blood, bone, lungs, kidneys as well as the immune system.

The substances or things that cause cancer are called carcinogens. There are various kinds of carcinogens such as chemical substances like those present in tobacco smoke, and genetic, viral as well as environmental factors. 

There is no single cause for the occurrence of cancer. As discussed earlier, there are multiple factors that can interact together to develop a cancerous growth by accumulated damage to cells or genes. The causes of cancer can be genetic such as family history for the disease, environmental such as emf exposure as well as the individual’s constitutional characteristics. We can group the risk factors or the causes of cancer as given below –

    • Biological risk factors: Individual’s constitutional characteristics such as age, genetic factors inherited from the parents, gender, and type of skin, etc. have a larger share in the development of cancer in the body.

    • Environmental risk factors: Exposure to environmental factors such as Ultraviolet radiation, radon, and fine particulate matter, etc. can also cause cancer.
    • Occupational risk factors: There are numerous factors related to the living and work environment that can contribute to the development of cancer. Asbestos fibers, radioactive materials, chemicals, polynuclear hydrocarbons (benzopyrene), some metal compounds, and plastic chemicals (vinyl chloride), tar and pitch, etc.

    • Lifestyle-related risk factors: Our lifestyle has greater meaning in our health. The lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and high-fat diet, nitrites, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons produced from barbeque food, exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, etc. can lead to cancer. 
    • Viruses and bacteria: A range of bacteria and viruses also cause cancer. For example, Helicobacter pylori (gastritis virus), HBV & HCV (hepatitis viruses), HPV (human papilloma virus), EBV (epstein-barr virus that causes inflammation in throat lymphoid), and HIV (AIDS-causing virus), etc.

    • Radiation: High-frequency ionizing radiation (X-rays) and non-ionizing radiation (Ultraviolet radiation from Sun) as well as low-frequency non-ionizing radiation, i.e. electromagnetic radiation have been proven to be a major causative factor for cancer in most cases.

    • High-dose of radiation & chemotherapy: There are chances of occurrence of cancer due to the cancer treatment itself. When children are exposed to these anticancer agents used in cancer treatment, they can develop second malignancy in their adulthood.

    • Certain drugs: Some drugs such as certain hormones, certain antineoplastic agents, and the medicines causing immune deficiency have the ability to cause cancer. 

Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) Causes Cancer

Wireless communication devices that we use in our day-to-day life such as mobile phones, laptops, computers, smart TVs, wifi routers, and other IoT devices, etc. emit electromagnetic radiation (EMR). This low-frequency, non-ionizing radiation emitted by all these gadgets can damage cells in the body. In 2011, IARC, a WHO agency, has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) generated by EMR-emitting gadgets as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”

This particular radiation-related risk factor, one of the major causes of cancer, can be negated by using certified radiation protection products.

Also Read: Mobile Tower Radiation And Its Impact On Human Health

Cancer Genes: Certain Types of Genes Affect Cell’s Growth

It’s observed that certain types of genes experience mutation in certain types of cancers and 90% of cancers are reported to have some kind of genetic alteration (mutation). As per the studies to date, we have three main types of genes that experience mutation and affect the growth of cells.

    • Oncogenes: These genes regulate the cell’s growth and act as a “switch” which sometimes become “unable to control the normal growth of cells” and thus allow the cancer cell to grow uncontrollably.
    • Tumor suppressor genes: These genes detect the damaged or cancer cells and restrict their reproduction till they are corrected. These genes can not function properly when they get altered or mutated and that’s why a tumor grows.

    • Mismatch-repair genes: In our body, the DNA is copied. While making new cells and if there is an error, these ‘Mismatch-repair genes’ detect the error and repair it. If these genes don’t work properly, the error transmits to a new cell causing damage to that cell.


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