NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

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The NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms features 7,811 terms related to cancer and medicine.

Browse the dictionary by selecting a letter of the alphabet or by entering a cancer-related word or phrase in the search box.

chromosome
(KROH-muh-some)
Part of a cell that contains genetic information. Except for sperm and eggs, all human cells contain 46 chromosomes.

EnlargeStructure of DNA; drawing shows a chromosome, nucleosome, histone, gene, and nucleotide base pairs: guanine, cytosine, adenine, and thymine. Also shown is a cell and its nucleus.

Structure of DNA. Most DNA is found inside the nucleus of a cell, where it forms the chromosomes. Chromosomes have proteins called histones that bind to DNA. DNA has two strands that twist into the shape of a spiral ladder called a helix. DNA is made up of four building blocks called nucleotides: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C). The nucleotides attach to each other (A with T, and G with C) to form chemical bonds called base pairs, which connect the two DNA strands. Genes are short pieces of DNA that carry specific genetic information.