|photo courtesy of
National Cancer Institute
How is this possible? Here's how . . .
At the center of every cell in your body is a gene which is made up of the DNA. The DNA is like an instruction manual, a how-to guide that directs and controls the cell's activities.
Genes often and normally undergo mutations where the sequence of the DNA is changed. Three things happen when a cell experiences a mutation...
2. it causes harm to the cell, or
3. it helps the cell.
When there is no effect, the cell dies and a new one grows to replace it. When the gene is able to repair itself, the cell becomes healthy once more.
But when the damage is not fixed, a disorder occurs. This is known as DNA or cell mutation and the gene is now a defective one.
It's not the DNA mutation that makes the cell cancerous. It is the defective gene caused by the change inflicted on the DNA. The damaged gene is what triggers the cell...
These cells that have divided, grown and multiplied out of control are now abnormal. They don't die like normal cells do and they continue to grow.
Some basic facts to remember about genetic or DNA mutations are:
Genetic changes in your DNA also happen in two ways:
This is an important distinction to keep in mind in terms of both the roles and the effects of genetic mutation on the development of tumor in your body.
Changes in your genes are factors in what causes cancer. Mutations that occur either only in an egg or sperm cell, or those that occur just after fertilization, are called new or de novo mutations.
De novo mutations may explain genetic disorders in which an affected child has a DNA mutation in every cell, but has no family history of the disorder.
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