How Does Cancer Develop In The Body?

Cancer is known for its multifactorial nature, that is, many components play a significant role in its pathogenesis. In this article, we describe in detail how cancer develops.
How does cancer develop in the body?

The term cancer refers to a number of diseases  characterized by the rapid and uncontrolled proliferation of cells in the body. But have you ever wondered how cancer actually develops? What is that process like?

In order for cancer to develop,  changes must be made in the proteins inherited by the body’s cells or derived from these genes. These changes can be hereditary or sporadic (spontaneous onset).

Some substances have the ability to speed up or trigger the processes that then lead to a certain type of cancer. These substances are known as carcinogens and are part of the risk factors for cancer.

How cancer develops

The cancer starts in the cell. This cell, due to changes in its function, escapes under the control of a biologically determined regulation, dividing and growing uncontrollably in some part of the body. This process is completely related to genes, as cancer belongs to genetic diseases.

Genes have the necessary instructions to make the proteins that control the behavior of every cell in our body. There are  proto-oncogenes (precancerous genes) and suppressor genes (growth restriction genes).

  • Proto-oncogenes are genes whose function is to stimulate cell division, a vital function. Fetal development during pregnancy and wound healing are both dependent on proto-oncogenes.
  • Growth restriction genes, on the other hand, are responsible for inhibiting the above processes.

Any change in the balance of functions of proto-oncogenes and growth restriction genes causes disturbances in the cell management system. 

This disorder can lead to an increase in the production of a protein for cell growth, which in turn causes a kind of abnormal cell proliferation.

On the other hand, it can lead to the production of a protein with abnormal features that is unable to repair the damage to the cell, affecting a particular organ.

The cancer starts in the cell

How cancer develops: risk factors

Cancer is multifactorial in nature; in other words,  many different components play their own significant role in the development of this disease. Science has been able to identify factors that increase the chance (risk) of developing at least one type of cancer. These are known as risk factors.

We can understand a little more about the concept of risk factors by looking at the definition given by the World Health Organization:

From this perspective,  risk factors may include exposure to chemicals, lifestyles, or a person’s work. Often, family history (a close relative has had cancer) is considered one of the most significant risk factors for hereditary cancers.

How cancer develops: mechanisms

In order for changes affecting the genes responsible for cancer to occur, several processes must take place. Among these processes we can mention:

  • Exposure to carcinogens
  • Spontaneous genetic defects during cell growth
  • Hereditary gene mutations

We could refer to the first two processes as sporadic cancers, all of which have the same specific feature: the genetic changes that underlie their origin are 80% dependent on exposure to environmental risk factors (infections, radiation, chemicals).

Cancer family syndrome

In the case of hereditary gene mutations, one can speak of cancer family syndrome. It is a type of hereditary syndrome that means that members of a particular family have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Cancer is relatively common. It is estimated that one in three Finns develops some form of cancer during their lifetime. Thus, it is not uncommon for more than one person in the same family to go through cancer.

However, it is important to note that more than one case of cancer in the same family does not necessarily mean that it is cancer family syndrome.

When there are multiple cases of cancer in the same genus, it is often associated with exposure. In other words,  family members have been exposed to the same common risk factor, such as tobacco.

 With all this in mind, we can say the cancer family syndrome in question when:

  • The same type of cancer occurs in more than one member of the genus.
  • The cancer starts at an earlier age than usual (for example, breast cancer in a 20-year-old woman).
  • The same person develops more than one cancer (a woman with breast cancer and ovarian cancer).
  • Cancer develops in both even organs (both breasts, both ovaries, both kidneys).
  • Cancer occurs in several knees of the same genus.


The term  cancer includes a number of diseases that have one thing in common: rapid and uncontrolled proliferation of cells in the body. It can be related to environmental factors, lifestyles, and creativity.

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