What is Cancer?
Cancer is not one disease but many. It covers all diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are then able to invade other tissues. There are over 100 different types, the majority of which are named for the organ or the type of cell in which they start – for example, cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer, cancer that begins in the melanocytes of the skin is called melanoma.
Cancer types can be grouped in five broader categories:
Cancers that begins in blood forming tissue such as bone marrow. This causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the blood stream.
Cancers that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels or other connective or supportive tissue.
Cancers that begins in the skin or tissues that line or cover internal organs.
Lymphoma and myeloma
Cancers that begins in the cells of the immune system
Central nervous system cancers
Cancers that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord
All cancers begin when a cell mutates. Normally, cells grow and divide in an orderly fashion as cells die they are replaced with new cells. A mutation is what happens when this process goes wrong, cells don’t die when they become old and damaged. They form a mass of tissue, we call a tumour.
Not all tumours are cancerous. Benign tumours aren’t cancerous. They are easily removed and don’t return. Malignant tumours are cancerous. Cells in these tumours can invade nearby tissue, spreading the cancer around the body. The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another is called metastasis.
There are a number of reasons a cell might mutate. Any damage to DNA could cause damage to the genes that control cell division. If the instructions get damaged, the cell has no way of correcting this damage, leading to abnormal growths.
Carcinogens are always making paper headlines. They are a class of substances that are directly responsible for damaging DNA. Examples of carcinogens include: tobacco, arsenic, car exhaust fumes, and radiation such as gamma or x-rays. When our bodies are exposed to carcinogens, free radicals are formed that try to steal electrons from other molecules, damaging cells in the process.
There is no way to avoid every single carcinogen your body may be exposed to in everyday life. This is one of the reasons when we talk about cancer; we always talk in terms of relative risk of developing cancer. Nobody has a zero percent chance of getting cancer. All you can ever hope to do is reduce your risk as much as possible.
Avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol and keeping a healthy diet will reduce your risk tenfold. External hazards are much harder to control, such as second hand smoking or living in a polluted city. Your own diet and lifestyle will likely be the biggest factors in whether or not you develop cancer. You can either eat to promote cancer, living off refined sugars, junk food and soda or you can eat to starve cancer, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.
The Paleolithic diet or the Paleo diet is a modern nutritional plan based on the diet of our ancestors. The diet consists of mostly meat, fish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, berries, mushrooms and other foods that would have been available to hunter-gather societies in the Palaeolithic period. Following the Paleo lifestyle naturally avoids foods that encourage cancer.