How does a person get pancreatic cancer?
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While it is virtually impossible to tell what caused a specific person to develop pancreatic cancer, there are some important principles of cancer biology that can help us understand why pancreatic cancer develops, and large population-based studies help us understand the many risk factors for this disease.Pancreatic cancer is fundamentally a disease caused by damage to the DNA. This damage is often referred to as mutations. These mutations can be inherited from mom or dad, or they can beacquired as we age. First, let us look at theinherited mutations. Remember that we have two copies of each gene – one copy we inherit from our mother, the other copy we inherit from our father. Most individuals with an inherited cancer syndrome inherit one mutant copy (let us say from dad) and one intact (normal) copy (let us say from mom) of a cancer associated gene. As these individuals with an inherited cancer syndrome age, some of will sustain damage the good copy of the gene (the copy they got from mom) in a cell in their pancreas. That cell will then have two damaged copies of the gene (one inherited and one acquired during life), and, as a result, that cell in the pancreas will begin to grow abnormally and will eventually form a cancer.
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes most pancreatic cancers, but they have found several risk factors that can make a person more likely to get this disease. Some of these risk factors affect the DNA of cells in the pancreas, which can result in abnormal cell growth and may cause tumors to form.
DNA is the chemical in our cells that carries our genes, which control how our cells function. We look like our parents because they are the source of our DNA. But DNA affects more than just how we look.
Some genes control when our cells grow, divide into new cells, and die:
- Genes that help cells grow, divide, and stay alive are called oncogenes.
- Genes that help keep cell division under control, repair mistakes in DNA, or cause cells to die at the right time are called tumor suppressor genes.
Cancers can be caused by DNA changes (gene mutations) that turn on oncogenes or turn off tumor suppressor genes.
Inherited gene mutations
Some people inherit gene changes from their parents that raise their risk of pancreatic cancer. Sometimes these gene changes are part of syndromes that include increased risks of other health problems as well. These syndromes, which cause a small portion of all pancreatic cancers, are discussed in Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer.
Acquired gene mutations
Most gene mutations related to cancers of the pancreas occur after a person is born, rather than having been inherited. These acquired gene mutations sometimes result from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals (like those found in tobacco smoke). But often what causes these changes is not known. Many gene changes are probably just random events that sometimes happen inside a cell, without having an outside cause.
Some of the DNA changes often seen in sporadic (non-inherited) cases of pancreatic cancer are the same as those seen in inherited cases, while others are different. For example, many sporadic cases of exocrine pancreatic cancer have changes in the p16 and TP53 genes, which can also be seen in some genetic syndromes. But many pancreatic cancers also have changes in genes such as KRAS, BRAF, and DPC4 (SMAD4), which are not part of inherited syndromes. Other gene changes can also be found in pancreatic cancers, although often it’s not clear what has caused these changes.
GENERAL CANCER RISK FACTORS:
– Personal or family history of a particular cancer or cancer-related organ.
= Diet rich in cholesterol and fats of animal origin, as well as red meat.
– Food poor with fibers, fresh fruits and vegetables.
– Inactive lifestyle, with lack of physical activity.
– Excessive obesity (today’s disease).
– Excessive use of alcohol.
– Excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays (sunbathing without protective preparations), especially for those with a white tan and very sensitive skin.
– Long-lasting stress.
– Life in an industrialized environment.
– Certain viruses and bacteria may be augmenting the causative agents for certain cancers.
Malignant diseases are caused both by external (chemical substances, radiation, viruses), as well as by internal factors (hormones, stress, lack of vitamins and nutrients, inheritance mutations …). The cancer-causing factors can act individually or together, leading to changes that lead to the development of cancer. From exposure to the factor or cancer-causing factors, the occurrence of clinically manifest disease can last 10 years or more. The correlation between the onset of a disease and the action of a specific factor is usually expressed through various degrees of risk. Knowing these risks is necessary for the prevention of cancer. A risk factor for the development of cancer may be some habit, genetic characteristic, exposure to some carcinogenic matter, which increases the risk that a person suffers from a certain malignant disease.