The low-down on cancer

Posted on 10 August 2012

Meet our expert Dr André Dreyer, an oncologist at Mediclinic Panorama.

What causes cancer?
Some of the causes include:· Genetics. Some people are born with the lack of a cancer suppressor gene, or with genetic material that leads to an increased division of cells. This leads to cancer in children.
• Low-grade viral infection can lead to an increased division of cells too, and mixed with breakages in genetic material, a lymphoma or lymph-gland cancer can form.
• Toxins like tobacco and long-term irritation like a broken tooth can lead to mouth cancer.
• The constant ebb and flow of female hormones through the menstrual cycle can promote breast cancer.
Once there is a problem with the genetic material, circumstances can promote the faster growth of cancers. Extra male hormone, for example, would stimulate a slow-growing prostate cancer to grow faster.

Why do some cancers stay localised and why do others spread or metastasize?
A low-grade cancer is more similar to normal cells and creates localised havoc, rather like a toddler in the home, while high-grade cancers actively move into the blood stream and create havoc elsewhere too, as a student might. While some cancers are known for a good prognosis, like thyroid cancer, for instance, others are known for their aggression.

Can I prevent cancer?
There are things you can do to play it safe:
• avoid excessive sunburn
• don’t smoke
• lead a healthy lifestyle, with a good diet and exercise regime
All of these can reduce your chances of cancer, but don’t feel as though you failed your body if a cancer slips through your defences. Early detection can be a vital tactic to limiting cancer’s attack.


The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Cancer

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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