Cancer has become the leading cause of death in women, surpassing heart diseases. In males it takes a second place. The disease burden is large and grows as a result of aging of the population, especially in western countries. Cancer research in the past has led to a better understanding of treatment and prognosis. Nevertheless, despite substantial efforts in this research field, the pathogenesis of cancer is still largely unclear. Since long it has been recognized, that cancer is not merely one disease, but has to be considered as a collective term for a diversity of diseases that may differ strongly regarding pathogenesis, clinical appearance, treatment and prognosis. Nevertheless, a joint feature of all tumors is their uncontrolled growth. The withdrawal of a cell from normal growth regulation is a result of cell transformations. These transformations are caused by carcinogens that initiate or promote the formation of cancer (carcinogenesis). Besides the time it takes for one single malignant cell to become a clinically manifest tumor, carcinogenesis is a long-term process for another reason as well. Transformation has a multistep character that results in accumulation of mutations, a process that might take years. Consequently, a person in the middle of such a process might die from other causes before developing a clinical manifest cancer.

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Erasmus MC Rotterdam, NWO, Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development, Research Institute for Diseases in the Elderly, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, EC, Municipality of Rotterdam
Erasmus University Rotterdam
B.H.Ch. Stricker (Bruno) , H.A.P. Pols (Huib)
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Siemes, C. (2007, May 9). New Insights into Genetic Variation and Cancer. Retrieved from