Home > Disease > Cancer and DNA

Cancer and DNA

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 27 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Dna Cancer Damage Tumour Suppressor

With hundreds of thousands of Britons receiving a cancer diagnosis each year and millions around the world being diagnosed, the aim to successfully treat cancer is an important one for researchers. Our knowledge of cancer thus far has shown it to be a complex disease that involves numerous factors such as genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors. The area of genetics is a particularly vital one because it is suggested that our genes are the starting point for disease susceptibility and in some cases, genetics are the determining factor while in other cases, this predisposition to cancer can be triggered by lifestyle and the environment.

DNA Damage and Cancer

DNA damage is not an unusual or isolated event. Rather, we all suffer from DNA damage within cells during our lives. When DNA is copied, many mistakes can and do occur - the process is not a perfectly efficient one. As such, mistakes will occur and these may be rapidly repaired by DNA repair systems or they may accumulate, particularly due to ageing or if the body is repeatedly exposed to a harmful stimulus over time. Add to this the fact that by-products from normal metabolism and other required reactions in our bodies may trigger damage to DNA, and you can see how damage to our DNA can actually occur quite easily.

If you think about other aspects of life, such as your environment, consider things like smoke, radiation from the sun and other toxins. All of these parts of our day-to-day environment can cause repeated damage to DNA in cells. The consequences can mean a constant barrage of damage throughout the day, all of which each of your cells must withstand. Yet, not everyone ends up developing cancer, so clearly the combination of the body's repair systems, biochemistry, familial history, lifestyle and likely many still unknown factors come together to protect the body from cancer. In most cases as well, a cell can repair damage to DNA quite well and the body has some resilience to mistakes in DNA copying. In fact, even major DNA damage can be addressed through signals for cell apoptosis, which is the way a cell is programmed to die where appropriate.

When DNA Repair is Unsuccessful

Even with your body's systems of repair and resilience to damage, the body can still become overwhelmed with damage and cancer can occur. Also perhaps surprising is that cancer can be caused by malfunctions and mutations in the genes that govern the cell repair itself. This means that mutations may initially occur, followed by mutations in the mechanisms for repairing these initial problems. Thus far, genes have fortunately been identified with regards to mutations linked to cancer.

You may have even heard the terms already in the media. The first are tumour suppressor genes, which work to fix DNA errors, direct apoptosis and also affect the rate of cell division. If damaged, tumour suppressor genes can lead to cancer. The second are oncogenes, which are mutated forms of normal genes known as proto-oncogenes. Oncogenes carry DNA sequences known to lead to cancer. There are, of course, other genes that can mutate and may also improve a cancer's ability to persevere in a person's body. Such genes may facilitate 'better' delivery of the cancer to other areas of the body or may work to shield injured cells from apoptosis.

Looking Ahead to DNA and Cancer

There is still much about cancer that remains unknown but our knowledge has progressed rapidly and continues to improve with each new discovery. The area of DNA and genes is a crucial one with regards to cancer and it is hoped that the researchers continue to focus on this area with the aim of obtaining important information that can improve and save the lives of those who suffer from cancer.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Jella
    Re: DNA Testing for Pets
    I rescued my dog from Romania. She was an extremely beautiful small dog. I lost her to cancer aged about 13years. I suspect by seeing a…
    24 November 2020
  • Cuqui
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    HELLO.I WANT TO KNOW IF I COULD THE DNA FROM MY BROTHER AND HE HAS BEEN DEAD FOR 30 YEARS.HE WAS NOT CREMATED AND IF IS POSIBLE FROM WHAT…
    20 September 2020
  • samac
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I've recently become curious that a deceased relation, previously assumed to be born to british parents in the 1910's, may be of Australian…
    29 August 2020
  • Henry
    Re: The Importance of DNA
    Yes hi my name is Henrietta Salazar my mother was cremated without our consent wanted to see if there was any possible way that we could…
    26 August 2020
  • Bobbi
    Re: The Importance of DNA
    Is there possibility that a genes of a Father and the son/daughter could not be the same? Because of the appearance are indifference?
    9 August 2020
  • annie
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My family has possible history of a Native American marriage we are trying to trace. The woman in question died in 1946 and is buried in a…
    5 August 2020
  • Dads girl
    Re: Where Can I Get Genetic Testing?
    I had my fathers dna saved before he was cremated 4 years ago Where could i get a test to confirm he was my biological father?
    7 July 2020
  • Nicola
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Hi My Mother has been informed her twin brother has passed away, can we have a DNA test done to confirm the deceased person is actually her…
    29 June 2020
  • Rosie
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My grandpa passed away years ago. I was needing a way to take a DNA test with him to prove I was related to him. I don’t know if it’s even…
    27 June 2020
  • Idiot
    Re: Evolution of DNA
    Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/TjxZ6MrBl9E
    6 June 2020