Minute to Understanding: What is cancer?

What is cancer?

How does cancer arise and why is it so complex?

The chances are high that you already know or will know someone who will have cancer… but how does cancer form?

It all starts with our cells. The cells in our body normally grow and multiply to form new cells as our body needs them. Sometimes this process breaks down, and dividing cells acquire DNA variants that may cause them to grow abnormally. This growth can lead to cancer. Cancer is a disease that results when some cells in our body lose important functions. Cancers are dangerous because of the way that tumors grow and spread.

Since cells grow and replicate faster within tumors, the chance that damaged cells will accumulate more DNA variants increases. This, in-turn, can grow the size and speed of a tumor’s development. These features of cancer make it difficult to study, as cancer is not just one disease, but many collections of DNA variants, varying from person to person, organ to organ. Despite these challenges, the research community remains strong, creative, and dedicated to finding treatments, and more people are surviving cancer than ever before.

Watch more Minute to Understanding videos from The Jackson Laboratory here.