The 6 Main Hallmarks of Cancer Explained

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and downright confusing, especially when it comes to talking to undergoing various tests and treatments from multiple specialists. In fact, the language used by many medical professionals can make you feel like you’re in a foreign country, when in fact, you have every right to understand what’s happening inside your body.

Cancer is broadly defined by oncologists in “hallmarks” or rather as “common characteristics or traits” that make up all types of cancer (malignant or tumorous in nature). These hallmarks were established in 2000, in a medical article written by cancer researchers, Douglas Hanahan and Robert Weinberg. While this language can be downright confounding, the aim of this article is  to help patients and their loved ones learns the basic terminology and gain clarity so they’re able to make important decisions about their cancer treatment. Here are the six hallmarks of cancer:

  1. Sustaining proliferative signaling

While our normal, healthy bodily cells need external growth signals in order to multiply and divide, cancerous cells do not. Cancerous cells go against these normal body signals and grow and multiply on their own, which is why the cell growth is considered “abnormal”.

  1. Evading growth suppressors

Normal cell growth is controlled by the body’s growth inhibitors. However, cancer cells are resistant to these bodily suppressors so they continue to divide and grow in an uncontrolled nature.

  1.  Activating tissue invasion and metastasis

Many cancer patients succumb to their cancer, not due to the tumor alone, but due to metastasis, which characterized cancer cells that divide and grow from a primary tumor and invade invade and spread to surrounding tissues and organs.

  1. Enabling replicative immortality

Healthy, normal bodily cells have a limit to how many times they can multiply and grow. Cancerous cells, however, multiply without limits, which means they can reproduce an indefinite amount of times.

  1. Inducing angiogenesis

Cancerous cells, or parts that make up a cancerous tumor, work by angiogenesis, which means they draw blood cells into a tumor in order to feed and nourish it so it continues to grow.

  1. Resisting cell death

Cancerous cells resist death by nature. Whereas normal, healthy cells are conditioned to die off (a process known as apoptosis) if the body senses damage.