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There are more than 200 types of cancer, but they all start the same way – abnormal cells.

All cells in the body divide naturally in a controlled way, but when the control signals in a cell goes wrong, it can cause the cell to grow at an abnormal rate. These abnormal cells are called ‘malignant cells’ and they divide much more rapidly than normal cells.

As the abnormal cells keep on dividing and dividing, they can form a lump or a cluster known as a tumour. Some tumours are benign, meaning they don’t need treatment, but malignant tumours can spread and must be treated immediately. They are dangerous because they can invade other parts of the body and stop them functioning properly.

Cancer can take many forms. Common forms include skin cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, leukaemia and lymphoma. However cancer can develop anywhere in the body.

Some forms of cancer can be avoided and many types can be cured if they are spotted early.

Cancer is not contagious – you can’t catch it from other people or pass it on to other people.

Cancer is rare in young people, with the exception of testicular cancer, which mainly affects 15-35 year olds.

You can reduce the risk of cancer by not smoking, eating healthily and staying out of the sun or using a very high sun protection factor at all times.

The European Code of Cancer provides a checklist for things to look out for, including:

  • A lump anywhere in your body
  • Changes in a mole or on your skin
  • A prolonged cough or hoarseness
  • Any abnormal bleeding
  • Unexplained weight loss

Don’t be embarrassed if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Most cancers can be cured if they are detected early enough so don’t hesitate to see your doctor. If you are at all concerned, please visit your GP immediately.

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