Cancer

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age specific incidence of cancer in 30-80 year old individuals
fig 3. incidence of cancer between different ethnic backgrounds
fig 2. Childhood incidence of cancer
Cancer is an uncontrolled proliferation of cells inside the body. These cells have an abnormal mitotic cycle causing them to grow uncontrollably, leading to tumours, and thus a disease state. Hanahan and Weinberg's Hallmarks of Cancer is a much cited paper that is useful for defining cancer and understanding the six traits that many different cancer types have in common[1].  The study and treatment of cancer is known as oncology.

Causal factors

There are many different forms of cancer associated with every organ in the body from the extremely rare (heart cancer) to the four most common cancers (prostate, lung, breast (women) and colon). The causal factors in cancer vary wildly from genetic predisposition to environmental carcinogens with the exact make up of these carcinogens being highly disputed, but some are widely accepted as cancer causing. Radiation, environmental toxins, UV, obesity, viruses and chemical carcinogens such as benzene. Equally cancers can be very age specific such as retinoblastoma, which tends to affect the very young. Testicular cancer which tends to affect the 16-25 year old categories and prostate cancer which is a very common in the 60-80 year old category (fig 1 and 2) [2][3]. Genetically predisposed individuals will often develop cancer more severely and often earlier in life. Whereas people from different ethnic backgrounds can have very different cancer incidence curves. This is due to differential genetics between populations and the lifestyles changes that can be seen between countries (fig 3) [4]. The Japanese populous have higher rates of colon and lung cancer compared to England in the ~ 30 – 70 age category but by 80 England has nearly caught the rate up. So as you can see there are many factors and differentials related to cancer and its incidence. Old age cancers can strike in the prime of life and childhood cancers can develop late. It is a worldwide issue of great importance and will continue to be far into the future.

Treatment of Cancer

The treatment of cancer had developed greatly over the last few years. Firstly there are some screening techniques used to catch cancer before it has time to properly develop. These include mammography to screen for breast cancer as well as smear tests to screen for cervical cancer [5]. In the majority of cancer cases however the patient detects the symptoms and will then relay these to a doctor who can make a diagnosis [6]. The three main areas of cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiotheraphy. Depending on the type and severity of the cancer depend on which of these are used and often a combination of all of them are required [7].
Surgery is one of the main treatments for cancer. It might be the only treatment you need. It is a local treatment – it only treats the part of the body operated on. So it may cure cancer that is completely contained in one area and hasn't spread. Usually, the earlier a cancer is found the easier it is to remove it.[8]



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