Have you ever wondered how cancer forms? Well, cancer starts when a cell's DNA becomes
altered. When the DNA is altered, the cells reproduce without restriction and do not die like a
normal cell. These extra cells form a mass of tissue that is a tumor. Cancer forms in the genes of
our cells, and is able to be carried in the offspring of the person with cancer.
The cells are the basic units of life. Cells contain DNA that make up genes. Genes are
instructions for the cells to make certain proteins. These proteins are then used as a blueprint for
the function and structure of the organism. When the DNA is mutated, it alters the normal growth
of the cells. This results in the cells not dying as they normally would, and a tumor may form;
these tumors are commonly called "cancer" (www.cancer.gov).
A tumor can be benign, which means it is not cancerous, or it can be malignant, which is
cancerous. The tumor is comprised of abnormal cells. These abnormal cells then take over the
organ that they begin in and are also named after it. For example, if a single cell becomes
abnormal in the liver, and then forms a cancerous tumor, it would be malignant, and would be
called liver cancer. Although, not all cancers form tumors. Also, abnormal cells can spread to
other areas of the body besides where they originally started (www.cancer.gov).
The gene for some cancers can be passed down to their offspring.These genes may
or may not produce cancer. The gene has to be activated and turned on. The mechanism for
turning on a cancerous gene is not well understood. The mechanism may vary from person to
More than 4,000 diseases come from altered genes inherited from one's mother or father
(www.cancer.gov). If a mother and father both carry one altered gene, and one normal gene,
there is a possibility that the altered gene will be stronger, and will be more prominent in the
offspring. The parents may both be disease-free themselves, but they might still carry an affected
gene. If there are four children, each one of them have a 25% chance of developing the disorder,
or not carrying the disease at all. Although, there is a 50% chance that the children will develop
an affected gene, and a normal gene, and being a disease carrier like their parents. Scientists
looking to find the start of disease-related genes start by looking at many past relatives, or
"disease families", that have developed the illness over several generations. Although all cancer
is genetic, only about five or ten percent is actually inherited (www.cancer.gov).
"Most cancers actually start from random mutations that develop in the cells during one's
lifetime" (www.cancer.gov). Mutations can develop as a mistake when cells are going through
cell division. They can also develop in response to radiation or chemicals in the...