Cancer describes the process when your genes malfunction causing abnormal cells to develop and divide in an uncontrolled way.  Some cancers may eventually spread to other tissues or organs if the abnormal cell growth cannot be stopped, this growth may cause a mass of cells known as a tumour.

Some types of cancer, called leukaemia, start from blood cells. They don’t form solid tumours. Instead, the cancer cells build up in the blood and sometimes the bone marrow.

A primary tumour is the name given to the part of your body where the cancer started. If the cancer spreads to another part of the body it is called a secondary tumour or a metastasis.

Cancer and its treatments can affect any of your body’s systems, such as blood circulation, lymphatic and immune systems and the hormone system.

Most cancers start due to faulty gene changes that happen over a persons lifetime, which is why your odds of developing cancer increase as you get older, particularly after age 65-70. Some cancers can develop as a result of an inherited faulty gene passed down in your family, but this is much rarer.

There are more than 200 recognised types of cancer and 1 in 2 people will develop cancer within their lifetime¹. This leap to a 50% chance has developed as life expectancy has increased thanks to modern medicine and sanitation, alongside our advanced understanding of diseases. Prior to the 1900s the majority of people did not live long enough to develop cancer.

Can I prevent myself from getting Cancer?

Whilst many people believe getting cancer is purely down to your genetics, fate or bad luck, yet scientific research tells us that our risk of developing cancer depends on a combination of factors. These include our genes, our lifestyle choices and our environment, some of these factors we can control and others we cannot. But you can take significant steps to help reduce your chances of developing cancer.

Cancer is caused by damage to our DNA the chemical instructions that tell our cells what to do, including how to grow and repair our bodies. Our lifestyle choices such as smoking tobacco and being overweight, along with environmental factors such as exposure to UV-rays can damage our DNA. This damage starts to build up over time and if a cell develops too much damage to its DNA it can start to multiply out of control – which is how cancer starts.

Family History and Inherited Genes

Some people inherit damaged genes within their DNA code from their parents, which can give them a higher overall risk of certain cancers. For example the BRCA genes are linked with breast, ovarian, prostate and other cancers. But the overall proportion of cancers caused by inherited faulty genes is small, lower than 10% of the total number of cancer cases.

How many cancers could be prevented?

Every year in the UK alone 331,000 people are diagnosed with cancer. But experts estimate more than 4 in 10 cases of cancer could be prevented by lifestyle changes². That’s nearly half of all cases or over 150,000 people!

Lifestyle factors to consider are:

  • not smoking
  • keeping a healthy bodyweight
  • cutting back on alcohol
  • eating a healthy balanced diet
  • keeping active
  • avoiding certain infections such as HPV
  • enjoying the sun safely
  • avoiding chemical exposure

Our advice

For those wishing to prevent cancer we suggest you follow the prevention tips above, not only will they lower your risk of developing cancer, but sticking to them will increase your overall health and well being.  You only get one body so you need to take care of it!

Whilst our Survivor Pack Guide has been developed for cancer patients, it can also be used by those wishing to prevent cancer. For your copy please visit our Survivor Pack page here or request one directly here via our contact form.

¹http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/risk
²http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/risk