Date: Tue Sep 30 22:58:18 2003
Posted By: John Moulder, Faculty, Radiation Biology, Medical College of Wisconsin
Area of science: Cell Biology
Cause of Cancer
"How does the "cancerous" part get into your skin cells? For example, how
does it pass through the cell membrane -or does it eat the membrane and
infect it? How does it infect it though? What effects it? How does it make
one cell divide into many cells that spread it??"
Cancer is not a "thing" that gets into cells. It is not like an infection.
Cancer results from normal cells behaving in abnormal ways because their
genetic control systems get messed up.
Which just gets to the next question. What causes the cells' genetic
control systems get messed up in the first place?
We know of several ways:
- It can be a result of genetic errors that we inherit.
- It can be a result of errors that our cells make when they duplicate
their genetic material in preparation for division.
- It can result from cells being exposed to chemicals that damage their
- It can result from cells being exposed to ionizing radiation (like
X-rays) that damage their genetic material.
- It is also possible (but not proven) that some viruses may be able to
infect cells and damage their genetic material.
Medical College of Wisconsin
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