This is the eighth post in my ‘What happens when…’ series. This series is running every Wednesday on Inside Laura’s Head for as long as I have posts. The series will be written by me, and also by guest posters. Posts can be on anything as long as they fit the ‘What happens when…’ title. If you have an idea and would like to guest post on Inside Laura’s Head, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org – all ideas are welcomed. Look out for more ‘What happens when…’ posts, and keep checking back so you don’t miss any.
My name is Chris Thorne and I blog at Career In Makeup where we write about how to become a makeup artist, how to run a makeup artistry business and how to take that business to the next level. You can also like us on Facebook, tweet us @careerinmakeup or follow us on Pinterest.
During the day I work as a cancer biologist, and so…
What happens when you get cancer…
Did you know around 13% of all deaths are caused by cancer? It’s no surprise therefore that most people have in some way been affected by cancer.
But what actually is happening when you get cancer – and more importantly is there anything you can do to prevent it?
Well you may have noticed that with a few understandably tragic exceptions that cancer tends to be something that old people get. And the reason for this is that cancer is caused my mutations in your DNA that accumulate over time – in fact over many years as your cells divide and replace themselves in your skin, your bones, your lungs etc.
Mutations in your DNA are caused by lots of things – sunlight will cause mutations in the DNA found in your skin. Smoking will cause mutations in the DNA found in your lungs. And mutations are happening all the time. Not just any mutation will give you cancer though.
There are many things working hard inside your body to prevent you from getting cancer. But if a mutation switches one of these safety mechanisms on then this can leave you vulnerable. And then if you get another mutation your vulnerability can increase. And so on…
Until one day a cell is able to grow uncontrolled and unchecked into a tumour.
The body even at this stage will often find ways to stop the growth – each of your freckles for example is a benign tumour that has started and been stopped (it’s why you have to watch them!). Your immune system will often remove cancers before they get started – but sometimes a cancer will evade these checks and grow.
So there are a few things you can do to decrease your risks – stopping smoking, living healthily, wearing sunscreen etc. Sometimes mutations will just down to bad luck however. Being aware of your body therefore can make a big difference, as cancers caught early can be treated much more easily!
We live in exciting times though – increasingly drug developers are identifying the mutations that switch cancer on and designing drugs to switch them back off. I hope to live to see a time where cancer is something you live with rather that die from!
Well. This post is a fantastic, although sad, one. Cancer has affected lots of my family and friends (as I’m sure it has yours, too) Thank you to people like Chris who are working hard to try to make it fuck off. You rock, Cancer Biologists!