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Understanding Cancer Series

  • Posted: 01/28/2005
  • Reviewed: 09/30/2009

Slide 10

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Why Cancer is Potentially Dangerous

A malignant tumor, a "cancer," is a more serious health problem than a benign tumor because cancer cells can spread to distant parts of the body. For example, a melanoma (a cancer of pigmented cells) arising in the skin can have cells that enter the bloodstream and spread to distant organs such as the liver or brain. Cancer cells in the liver would be called metastatic melanoma, not liver cancer. Metastases share the name of the original ("primary") tumor. Melanoma cells growing in the brain or liver can disrupt the functions of these vital organs and so are potentially life threatening.

Malignant Versus Benign Tumors