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Figure

(a) In a healthy cell, oncogenes are not overexpressed, and tumor suppressor genes are expressed. As a result, cell division rate is under control. Cancer begins in a single cell when an oncogene is turned on or a tumor suppressor gene is turned off. This initial step may result from an inherited mutation, or from exposure to radiation, viruses, or chemicals that cause cancer in a somatic (nonsex) cell. (b) Malignancy often results from a series of genetic alterations (mutations). An affected cell divides more often than the cell type it descends from and eventually loses its specialized characteristics. (c) Cancers grow and spread by inducing formation of blood vessels to nourish them and then breaking away from their original location. The renegade cells often undergo further genetic change and surface characteristic alterations as they travel. This changeable nature is why many treatments eventually cease to work or a supposedly vanquished cancer shows up someplace in the body other than where it originated.

Cancer trigger: inherited mutation or environmental insult that causes somatic (cells other than egg or sperm) mutation

Oncogene turned on or

Tumor suppressor gene turned off

(a) Healthy, specialized cells

Oncogene turned on or

Tumor suppressor gene turned off

Loss of cell division control Loss of specialization

To other tissues

Tumor cell

Blood vessel

Loss of cell division control Loss of specialization

To other tissues

Tumor cell

Blood vessel

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