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What is Cancer?

Cancer is defined as an abnormal growth of cells in the body that leads to the formation of a large mass of tissue, called a tumor. Normally, all cells in the body undergo a process of growth and division at some point in time. However, cancer begins when something happens inside the cell that causes it to divide uncontrollably.

Healthy cells contain specific proteins that signal the cell to stop dividing and growing when no longer necessary. But sometimes, the “stop” signals get corrupted, leading to uncontrolled cell growth and division. The disruption of the stop signals can be caused by genetic, or inherited, defects in the cell’s DNA, or by external dangers such as radiation or environmental toxins, such as pollutants or chemicals, both of which can cause damage to the cell’s DNA. Each of these factors can lead to cancer.

Figure 11. Radiation damages DNA.