It’s a scary thought that you probably have heard before – but is it true?
The answer isn’t exactly what you’re hoping for: yes and no.
Everyone has cells in their body that have the potential to turn cancerous, but it’s not a certainty that it's already happened, or even ever will happen.
It’s important to understand the process of a cell turning cancerous, and thus you will understand the importance of prevention and what you can do to protect yourself from some of the risks.
A cell has the potential to turn cancerous if
1. It can divide;
2. It builds up mistakes in certain genes; &
3.The faults cause it to grow out of control.
Every cell’s lifecycle goes through mitosis – where the cell divides and results in two (normally) identical cells for growth and to replace worn out cells. However, sometimes mistakes occur and during the splitting process, and one or both of the cells has a mutation or damage. When that cell, during its own lifecycle, goes through mitosis, it duplicates the damage and passes it along to the cells it produces in the future.
Aging cells have more potential to have an error occur during the process than younger cells, which is why many cancers present themselves in older people rather than the young. However, mutations and damaged cells can also come from outside factors, too – such as smoking or drinking alcohol.
So while there are ways to help prevent these mutations (stop smoking and drinking), there is always an inherent risk simply by growing older.
But don’t worry – it’s not all bad news: Our cells come with security systems built-in – essentially proof-reading machines – that find and fix damage. But they’re not foolproof. In instances where mistakes slip through the cracks, cells are programmed to commit suicide (apoptosis) so the mutations don’t pass on to more cells. But again, on rare occasions, some damaged cells can go unnoticed.
Enter the immune system: your last defense against these potentially cancer-causing cells. One of the amazing things about the immune system is its ability to recognize these mutations, and nip them in the bud before they get out of control.
The immune system, made up of organs, tissue, cells and enzymes, scans the trillions of cells in our body searching out these mutations to kill and remove them – keeping us healthy.
But, if our immune system isn’t functioning properly it may miss some of the damaged cells, leaving us susceptible to disease.
So while you can control some things to prevent damage to your cells (stopping smoking, drinking, etc.) you can also make sure your immune system is running top-notch to give yourself the best prevention protection you can.
You can learn more about maintaining a healthy immune system here, for some tips and tricks that you can integrate into your every-day life.