A tumor is not equal to cancer

How a tumor develops? What are the causes of cancer? A series of articles from the youth magazine ins!the Fondation Cancer addresses the big questions about cancer.

The pink ribbon is an international symbol for breast cancer


How a tumor develops?

Our body is made up of trillions of cells. With them as building blocks, our organs are assembled. Most cells are so tiny that we can only see them under a microscope. The cells in our body have very different functions. There are z. B. Skin cells, muscle cells, brain cells, etc.

It can happen that a body cell does not develop into a functioning cell and does not fulfill its intended task, but only multiplies and forms many daughter cells. Within an organ, such a mass of daughter cells is called a tumor.

Malignant and benign tumors

When a tumor is malignant, it grows into organs and destroys them. It attempts to spread and settle throughout the body via the blood and lymphatic system, i.e. to form daughter tumors – also called metastases. If a malignant tumor is present, it is called cancer.

But there are also benign tumors: a lipoma, for example, is a benign fatty tumor. These do not fall under the term cancer. Unlike malignant tumors, the cells of a benign tumor are easily distinguishable from the surrounding tissue and do not spread dangerous metastases in the body.

Blood cells that do not function properly but multiply excessively are called blood cancer, but not a tumor.

Causes of cancer

What exactly turned the first cell into a cancer cell can practically never be determined. Various properties of healthy cells are lost, other properties are newly added. Cancer develops in several steps and through the concurrence of several factors. This is why it is also called a multifactorial disease.

Here are a few examples of possible causes:

Hereditary predisposition

Only 5-10% of all cancers are hereditary. If there is a so-called "hereditary predisposition" or "genetic predisposition" in your family, this means: You cannot inherit the cancer itself, but you can inherit the predisposition to it. In such a case, you have then inherited an already damaged gene from your parents. In breast cancer, this is mainly related to the altered genes called BRCA.


For every ten lung cancers, eight to nine are caused by smoking. Besides tobacco, obesity is also a risk factor for the development of cancer. In addition, z. B. Nutrition and alcohol consumption influence the development of cancer.


99.7% of all cases of cervical cancer are due to human papilloma viruses. The most effective way to protect yourself – whether you’re a girl or a boy – is to get cancer
with the HPV vaccination. (See the ins!the n°71 of the Fondation Cancer).


Sun rays increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Can you contract cancer?

No, cancer is not contagious like the flu or AIDS, d. h. it is not transmitted from one person to another. So you do not need to be afraid
from physical contact with cancer patients in your environment. However, there are viruses that can be indirectly responsible for cancers.

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