• Question: is itb easy to get cancer?

    Asked by hillenamarie97 to Julia, Drew, Amy, Kimberley, Sara on 21 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by smccall, josh8, kayla23.
    • Photo: Julia Griffen

      Julia Griffen answered on 17 Jun 2011:

      Hey all, interesting and deep question guys!

      I guess you may think it’s easy to ‘get’ cancer due to alot of hype in the media, it seems that everything seems to cause cancer these days ‘if you stand on your head you get cancer’ ‘if you walk backwards you get cancer’ etc… I think you get my drift…

      There is a simple answer if you live a healthy lifestyle, good diet, excersise regularly , dont smoke, dont drink, dont do drugs, dont sun bathe then you are less likely to develop cancer (and many other illnesses to be honest.)

      Some people are more likely to develop cancer, e.g if it runs in the family.

      But dont be scared by this peeps…live healthily and you’re doing the best for you!

    • Photo: Sara Imari Walker

      Sara Imari Walker answered on 17 Jun 2011:

      Hello hillen, smaccal, and josh!! Excellent question! We don’t know exactly what causes cancer, but stress on the cells is certainly a contributing factor. That’s why having a healthy lifestyle can really go a long way, as Julia has suggested. But sometimes its not enough. The cells in our bodies undergo a lot of divisions in our lifetime. Sometimes things can go wrong in this process and a cell goes “rogue” deciding it want to do things it wasn’t originally programmed for, and it starts acting like a foreign cell in our bodies! So, we have an increased risk of cancer as we age – more cell divisions means more risk. Its an extremely rare event for a cell to become cancerous.
      The chances of this mistake increase with cell stress, so thankfully a healthy lifestyle can decrease the probability of this happening.

      What I find fascinating is that only multicellular organisms get cancer, and some have even have tumor suppressor genes that stave off formation of tumors! All the biology of cancer is really fascinating, but we have more to learn before we have spot on therapeutic treatments. Cancer is a hard one to tame!

    • Photo: Drew Rae

      Drew Rae answered on 17 Jun 2011:

      Hi guys. It’s possible that cancer is more of a symptom than a disease. There are some cancers that are closely associated with viruses, and some that seem to come from no-were. As Julia says, living healthily is your best chance of not getting cancer, but isn’t perfect.

    • Photo: Kimberley Bryon

      Kimberley Bryon answered on 18 Jun 2011:

      Hi all,

      Current statistics say that roughly 1 in 4 people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. As the other scientists have said, you are more likely to get some forms of cancer e.g. breast cancer, if you have relatives who have it.

      Cancer is due to damage to your DNA – DNA is like an instruction manual containing all the information for how you are built. If you get a mistake in your DNA this can lead to things going wrong and over a long period of time can cause cancer. You can inherit a mistake in your DNA ( a faulty gene) and this is what causes some cancers to be inherited. Thankfully, the human body is excellent at repairing DNA damage so we can repair almost all the mistakes we get.

      Some things that cause DNA damage are radiation like that we get from the sun. Getting sun burnt is really bad and can increase the likelihood of getting skin cancer which is why it is important to wear suncream! Smoking is another major risk for cancer because there are toxic chemicals in tobacco, that cause DNA damage.

      The best way to not get cancer is to live a healthy lifestyle although some risks are due to what genes you have inherited.

    • Photo: Amy MacQueen

      Amy MacQueen answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      Hi guys,

      There are many different types of cancer caused for many different reasons. Essentially cells start behaving abnormally and do not respond to normal control and checking by the body…this means that they grow unchecked and form tumours (the lumps that you get). Some of these cancers are caused by infections by pathogens like viruses…some are just the result of old age where cells have an increased burden of mutations (like Sara described) and start acting weird, some are caused by genes inherited from your parents like Kimberley mentioned.

      Usually (as with most things) it can be said that cancer is multifactorial – this means there are a lot of different things contributing to its cause. “Cancer” is more the name we give to the manifestation of the diseases (as Drew said) – the effect we see. This leads us to believe that all “cancers” are very similar but it is not strictly true.

      You can’t stop yourself getting cancer, but you can do things to reduce your likelihood of it – and as Julia said this is living a healthy lifestyle and not putting harmful chemicals into your body through drinking excessively, taking drugs or smoking. The likelihood of getting skin cancer can be reduced by spending less time in the sun and always wearing sun cream.

      Even if you have a family history of certain cancers – like breast or colon cancer you don’t need to spend all your time worrying about if you will get it. You can get checkups with the doctor and hospital on a regular basis to monitor your body in more detail so that they can pick up the early signs of cancer and stop it progressing.

      Hope this was helpful! 🙂