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    Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 21 July 2007 Referencing Hub media

    Dr Catherine Koleda a pathologist at Wellington Hospital, explains what we know about how cancer starts.

    Capital & Coast District Health Board
    Louise Goossens, Wellington School of Medicine


    We don't really know why good cells go bad. There are many theories that abound, and in certain types of tumours we seem to be able to pinpoint some of the reasons why they go bad, but in general I don't think humanity has cracked the secret of why cancers grow.

    There are certainly certain environmental factors that are associated with significantly increased risk of cancer, so for example smoking is associated with many cancers especially lung cancer. Asbestos exposure is associated with mesothelioma of the lung, a tumour which occurs on the surface of the lung. So there certainly are environmental triggers which are associated with a high risk of your getting a cancer. There are some genetic triggers as well, some people seem to have an inherent tendency to produce tumours and we notice that tumours can occur in certain families. But just because you are exposed to a certain environmental agent, doesn't mean that you are definitely going to get cancer, it simply means that you are a much higher risk of doing so.

    There is some evidence coming out now about dietary factors that might help you to avoid cancer, having a good high fibre diet is meant to be good to you in terms of reducing your risks of colon cancer. Not smoking is a very important one. But just in general living a healthy lifestyle is a healthy way to go.