In general, tumors occur when cells divide and grow excessively in the body. Normally, the body controls cell growth and division. New cells are created to replace older ones or to perform new functions. Cells that are damaged or no longer needed die to make room for healthy replacements.
If the balance of cell growth and death is disturbed, a tumor may form.
Problems with the body's immune system can lead to tumors. Tobacco causes more deaths from cancer than any other environmental substance. Other risk factors for cancer include:
- Benzene and other chemicals and toxins
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Environmental toxins, such as certain poisonous mushrooms and a type of poison that can grow on peanut plants (aflatoxins)
- Excessive sunlight exposure
- Genetic problems
- Radiation exposure
Types of tumors known to be caused by viruses are:
- Cervical cancer (human papillomavirus)
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses)
Some tumors are more common in one gender than the other. Some are more common among children or the elderly. Others are related to diet, environment, and family history.