5-O Agency : Together We Share, We Learn

~ Cancer Is A Leading Cause Of Death Worldwide

Posted by faisalrenzo on May 22, 2011

Cancer is a scary subject; possibly in part due to the overwhelming fear that someone’s body is literally destroying itself. It can happen and it does happen while cancer is not confined to humans, animals and other living organisms can get cancer too. Little is known about the various types of cancer and how it is able to spread so easily and embed itself so firmly into various parts of a body.

There are over 200 types of cancers; most can fit into the following categories according to the National Cancer Institute:

*Carcinoma : Cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.

*Sarcoma : Cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue.

*Leukemia : Cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the blood.

*Lymphoma and myeloma : Cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system.

*Central nervous system cancers : Cancers that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.

The three most common cancers in men, women and children in the U.S. are as follows:

Men: Prostate, lung, and colorectal.
Women: Breast, colorectal, and lung.
Children: Leukemia, brain tumors, and lymphoma.

The incidence of cancer and cancer types are influenced by many factors such as age, sex, race, local environmental factors, diet and genetics.

Consequently, the incidence of cancer and cancer types vary depending on these variable factors. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) provides the following general information about cancer worldwide:

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. It accounted for 7.4 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths) in 2004 (statistics published in 2009).

Lung, stomach, liver, colon, and breast cancer cause the most cancer deaths each year and deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 12 million deaths in 2030.

Different areas of the world may have cancers that are either more or less predominant then those found in the U.S (One example is that stomach cancer is often found in Japan, while it is rarely found in the U.S).

The most common cancers are Lung cancer, Breast cancer, Colon cancer, Cervical Cancer, Prostate cancer, Pancreatic cancer, Bladder Cancer, Bone Cancer, Kidney Cancer, Liver Cancer, Skin cancer, etc.

Much progress is needed, perhaps if we knew more about our ‘enemy’, we would be better equipped to stave off it’s relentless attacks, so naturally studies are essential to not only find medicine to kill the cells but ways to possibly control, manage, and manipulate them to have some functional purpose.

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells anywhere in a body. The abnormal cells are termed cancer cells, malignant cells, or tumor cells.

Many cancers and the abnormal cells that compose the cancer tissue are further identified by the name of the tissue that the abnormal cells originated from (breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer).

This process of cancer cells leaving an area and growing in another body area is termed metastatic spread or metastatic disease. For example, if breast cancer cells spread to a bone (or anywhere else), it means that the individual has metastatic breast cancer.

Different areas of the world may have cancers that are either more or less predominant then those found in the U.S (One example is that stomach cancer is often found in Japan, while it is rarely found in the U.S).

Researchers are modern day heroes, fighting off the ‘mythical monsters’ of modern day. Support is needed and funding is as necessary a tool as the men and women who devote themselves to the battle.

Unlike normal cells, cancer cells can grow and age without dying – one of the reasons they’re so dangerous. But researchers at Washington State University have developed a way to help cancer cells age and die, which could lead to treatment that slows or stops tumor growth.

The research, by Weihang Chai (pic left) of the Washington State University School of Molecular Biosciences and colleagues, was reported in the current issue of The EMBO Journal and was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society.

The big difference between cancer cells and normal cells is that cancer cells can divide forever and live forever and we call this immortality because normal cells will divide for a number of divisions and then stop growing, they get old and either they die or they sit there and do nothing – they are mortal.

Cancer cells have a way to maintain their telomeres and their telomeres don’t get shortened unlike normal cells since when they divide they lose some telomere DNA sequences. Eventually when the telomere DNA becomes too short, they stop growing. There are also other factors contributing to the mortality of normal cells.

The cancer cells divide uncontrollably and you may have more and more cancer cells in one location of your body that can invade the surrounding tissues and disrupt the function of the normal tissues.

They form the tumor – the cells can also circulate around your body and get into other places and form tumors in the new locations and this is in part due to the immortality of cancer cells – they don’t die.

Normal cells grow at one location and at some point they will stop.

The majority of the cancer cells, about 90 percent, they activate a molecule called telomerase. Telomerase is usually not activated in normal cells, except for in stem cells. In cancer cells, the telomerase is active. The function of telomerase is to add telomere DNA at the short telomeres.

Dr Weihang’s research paper said that’s why cancer cells don’t lose their telomeres. In the normal cells telomerase is off, so there is no way to maintain their telomere length. (This would suggest that) if you kill the telomerase in cancer cells, the telomere (would gradually shorten) and the cancer cells will die.

However, recently we have found that the telomerase extends just one strand of DNA. Other molecules, other proteins, should synthesize the other strand. We found the molecule that’s responsible for synthesizing the other strand. If you block the function of this molecule, then the telomere cannot be maintained properly, so the cell also just stops growing, added the research paper.

“We’re just at this stage now. We don’t know how this whole thing works. We’re working on that and hopefully in the future we can design a way to target this process, not directly target telomerase but target the synthesis of the other strand. That’s another way of stopping the cancer cell’s growth.

“The next step will be to find out how this whole thing is regulated. We’d like to know whether in normal cells the synthesis of the other strand also occurs because you want to specifically target the cancer cells.

“If this does exist, we want to know, whether the same process is regulated by different pathways in normal cells compared to cancer cells. Our ultimate goal is to see if there are any specific targets we can inhibit in the cancer cells,” she said.

The objective of this article is to introduce the reader to general aspects of cancers and designed to be an overview of cancer and projected deaths related to the killer disease.

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