Dangerous Cancers

Dangerous Cancers

Several other cancers affect thousands of people each year. Some have identifiable risk factors (particularly smoking and obesity, which are controllable), but the causes of others are still under investigation.

• Pancreatic cancer causes over 38,000 deaths annually in the United States. The disease is usually well advanced before symptoms become noticeable, and no effective cure is available. About 3 out of 10 cases are linked to smoking. Other risk factors include being male, African American, or over age 60; having a family history of pancreatic cancer; having diabetes; being inactive and obese; and eating a diet high in fat and meat and low in vegetables.

• Bladder cancer is nearly four times as common in men as in women, and smoking is the key risk factor. The first symptoms are likely to be blood in the urine and/ or increased frequency of urination. These symptoms can also signal a urinary tract infection but should trigger a visit to a physician, who can evaluate the possibility of cancer. With early detection, 96% of bladder cancers are curable. There are about 72,000 new cases and more than 15,000 deaths each year.

Kidney cancer usually occurs in people over 50. Smoking and obesity are mild risk factors, as is a family history of the disease. Symptoms may include fatigue, pain in the side, and blood in the urine. There are about 65,000 new cases each year and about 13,000 deaths.

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Brain cancer commonly develops for no apparent reason and can arise from most of the cell types that are found in the brain. One of the few established risk factors for brain cancer is ionizing radiation, such as X-rays of the head. Symptoms are often nonspecific and include headaches, fatigue, behavioral changes, and sometimes seizures. Some brain tumors are curable by surgery or by radiation and chemotherapy, but most are not. There are about 23,000 new cases and 14,000 deaths each year.

Leukemia, cancer of the white blood cells, starts in the bone marrow but can then spread to the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, other organs, and central nervous system. Some possible risk factors include smoking, radiation, certain chemicals, and infections. Most symptoms occur because leukemia cells crowd out the production of normal blood cells. The result can be fatigue, anemia, weight loss, and increased risk of infection. There are about 48,000 new cases and 24,000 deaths each year.

Chromosomes The threadlike bodies in a cell nucleus that contain molecules of DNA; most human cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes.

DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid, a chemical substance that carries genetic information.

Gene A section of a chromosome that contains the instructions for making a particular protein; the basic unit of heredity.

Oncogene A gene involved in the transformation of a normal cell into a cancer cell.

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