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What is Cancer?
Cancer is the name given to a number of diseases that result from defective cell division. Cells are the microscopic building blocks of the body. Normally the process of cell division, by which tissue grows and renews itself, is controlled and co-ordinated in nature. The instructions on growth and renewal are transmitted from the genes located inside the nucleus of the cell.

It is thought that the primary cause in the development of cancer is due to damaged genes, which means that the affected cells multiply in an uncontrolled manner, invading, and destroying normal tissue. Resultant tumours can be of two types, Benign tumours that do not grow rapidly, are non-cancerous, are covered by cells which are normal and do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumours are however cancerous, grow faster than benign tumours and are invasive in nature which means they can travel to other parts of the body creating secondary cancers.

How many types of cancer are there?
There are more than 200 various types of cancer that can affect any part of the body. In most cases they have different causes, symptoms and treatments. Common cancers include, Breast, Lung, Large bowl, Prostrate, Bladder, Stomach, Head/Neck, Oesophagus, Pancreas, Ovary, Leukaemia, Kidney and Testicular cancers. Statistics indicate that one in three people stand the chance of developing cancer during their lifetime. Cancer can affect people at different times in their lives, however the older you become the greater the risk of cancer, hence a significant proportion of cancers in the UK occur in the over 65 age bracket.

What are the risk factors?
The risk factors, which do not necessarily indicate that an individual will or will not develop cancer, support the general importance of leading a healthier lifestyle. An unhealthy, unbalanced diet and lack of exercise are some of the common sense elements that are considered risk factors. Other factors such as obesity, family history, protection from the sun/UV light and smoking are also areas of focus. It should be noted that over a quarter of deaths in the UK are caused by cancer and the biggest cancer killer is Lung cancer which is directly linked to smoking, followed by Large bowl cancer. So the message is clear, if you smoke, reduce your chances of dying from cancer, by giving up today and if your diet is poor, then make a conscious effort to improve it! See the Food & Nutrition and Smoking sections of MHN.


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