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Cancer is a broad term. It describes the disease that results when cellular changes cause the uncontrolled growth and division of cells.

Some types of cancer cause rapid cell growth, while others cause cells to grow and divide at a slower rate.

Certain forms of cancer result in visible growths called tumors, while others, such as leukemia, do not.

Most of the body’s cells have specific functions and fixed lifespans. While it may sound like a bad thing, cell death is part of a natural and beneficial phenomenon called apoptosis.

A cell receives instructions to die so that the body can replace it with a newer cell that functions better. Cancerous cells lack the components that instruct them to stop dividing and to die.

As a result, they build up in the body, using oxygen and nutrients that would usually nourish other cells. Cancerous cells can form tumors, impair the immune system and cause other changes that prevent the body from functioning regularly.



Lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin.

Weight changes, including unintended loss or gain.

Skin changes, such as yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin, sores that won't heal, or changes to existing moles.

Changes in bowel or bladder habits.

Persistent cough or trouble breathing.


Benzene and other chemicals and toxins.

Drinking too much alcohol.

Environmental toxins, such as certain poisonous mushrooms and a type of poison that can grow on peanut plants (aflatoxins)

Excessive sunlight exposure.

Genetic problems.


Radiation exposure.


Risk factors

Older age.

A personal or family history of cancer.

Using tobacco.



Some types of viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV)

Specific chemicals.

Exposure to radiation, including ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

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Pain. Pain can be caused by cancer or by cancer treatment, though not all cancer is painful. ...

Fatigue. ...

Difficulty breathing. ...

Nausea. ...

Diarrhea or constipation. ...

Weight loss. ...

Chemical changes in your body. ...

Brain and nervous system problems.


Don't use tobacco. Using any type of tobacco puts you on a collision course with cancer. ...

Eat a healthy diet. ...

Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active. ...

Protect yourself from the sun. ...

Get vaccinated. ...

Avoid risky behaviors. ...

Get regular medical care