Causes of Cancer

The causes of cancer vary widely because cancer isn’t just a single disease, but rather more than 100 different malignancies. In the most basic terms, cancer occurs when cells with abnormal DNA begin to multiply and spread into surrounding tissues. These cells have damaged genetic material that leads them to make errors as they divide and multiply. Due to their genetic mutations, affected cells don’t follow the normal course of growth and death that most of the body’s other cells do, but rather they are programmed to live on perpetually, forming tumors and potentially spreading into other tissues of the body (metastasizing).

The direct causes of cancer include damage to the genetic material of the body’s cells, but the triggers of this damage can vary. Some factors can increase a person’s chance of developing cancer, with potential risks including:

  • Environmental or occupational exposure to carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances such as benzene, ethanol, vinyl chloride, asbestos, and others
  • Excessive radiation exposure from radiation therapy used to treat other cancers and working around radioactive materials like radon gas, among others
  • Being exposed to UV rays from the sun, tanning beds, or other sources
  • Using tobacco products (including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and others)
  • Having a genetic predisposition to certain types of cancer (only in rare instances are cancer-causing mutations passed down from parent to child, but certain inherited factors can make some people more susceptible to carcinogens and DNA damage than others)
  • Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or drinking very frequently
  • Having a poor diet
  • Lacking regular physical activity
  • Carrying excess weight

No matter what kind of causes contribute to a cancer diagnosis, or what particular type of cancer a patient has been diagnosed with, Tampa General Hospital’s interdisciplinary team of cancer specialists can formulate a treatment plan customized to the patient’s needs. Our treatment options include chemotherapy, chemoembolization, and minimally invasive robotic surgery, among countless others. We also offer intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) that our staff uses to precisely target complex tumors without the need for excessively radiating the surrounding healthy tissues. 

For a physician referral or to schedule an appointment, please call (813) 844-2200.