CANCER – A MULTI STAGE PROCESS

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A bio chemist from Seattle by name of Dr. Donald Malins, reported a new method to identify structural changes in the DNA of breast tissue. The new method is done with an instrument that bounces infrared radiation off the DNA and by analyzing the signals. He is able to follow the structural damage to the DNA caused by free radicals. Researchers agreed that the development of cancer is a multistage process that usually takes decades to develop. In adults, cancer may take 20-30 years to develop from initial mutation of the DNA to its full manifestation. In children this process may progress more quickly because of their more rapid cell turnover.

Dr. Donald noted significant changes within the structure of the DNA as he followed it from normal breast time to metastatic breast cancer in all its developmental stages. He believed oxidative stress was the cause of this predictable damage to the DNA, which eventually led to the formation of breast cancer. He said that cancer was not so much the result of dysfunctional genes as it was the result of genetic damage that highly reactive free radicals caused.

For the last 35 years, researchers have believed that abnormal genes are the driving force behind all cancer. But now researchers are beginning to believe instead that individuals with certain genes are simply more vulnerable to oxidative stress than others. This may explain the familial patterns of many types of cancer. Cancer is usually diagnosed in the last stages of its development. Unfortunately, by the time a cancer is advanced enough to cause symptoms or to show up, it has usually been developing for more than 10-20 years. Doctors get out the big guns of aggressive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation only to realize that most often they can do little to help the patient. Doctors generally believe that these treatments will bring the cancer to remission. What is actually meant by remission is that life can be extended by few months or years. This is the tragic story for most people with cancer. People not only die after battling the cancer but also due to the treatment that left them weak and ill. An aggressive treatment may extend a life a few months to even a year or so longer, but the suffering the patients and loved ones must endure for the marginal benefits seems a cruelty to those whose lives are already so fragile. We are presently losing the battle against cancer. Is there any doubt that this malignant disease must be attacked at much earlier stage in its development before the number of deaths will increase? We do have hope, understanding the role of oxidative stress in the development of cancer offers us a host of new possibilities in prevention and treatment.