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Understanding Cancer Series

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

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Slide 39

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Genes and Cancer

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Chemicals (e.g., from smoking), radiation, viruses, and heredity all contribute to the development of cancer by triggering changes in a cell's genes. Chemicals and radiation act by damaging genes, viruses introduce their own genes into cells, and heredity passes on alterations in genes that make a person more susceptible to cancer. Genes are inherited instructions that reside within a person's chromosomes. Each gene instructs a cell how to build a specific product--in most cases, a particular kind of protein. Genes are altered, or "mutated," in various ways as part of the mechanism by which cancer arises.

Genes and Cancer