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Why do we think chronic inflammation can cause cancer? I know the pathway is not fully understood, but what makes scientists believe that inflammation causes cancer?

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There are good epidemiological data for this.

Links between cancer and inflammation were first made in the nineteenth century, on the basis of observations that tumours often arose at sites of chronic inflammation and that inflammatory cells were present in biopsied samples from tumours.

There are many triggers of chronic inflammation that increase the risk of developing cancer. Such triggers include microbial infections (for example, infection with Helicobacter pylori is associated with gastric cancer and gastric mucosal lymphoma), autoimmune diseases (for example, inflammatory bowel disease is associated with colon cancer) and inflammatory conditions of unknown origin (for example, prostatitis is associated with prostate cancer). Accordingly, treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents decreases the incidence of, and the mortality that results from, several tumour types.

Cited from Mantovani, Alberto, et al. "Cancer-related inflammation." Nature 454.7203 (2008): 436-444.

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Inflammation and the inflammatory response can lead to tissue damage, and these stresses at the cellular and DNA level can lead to changes in the cell's programming. One example I can think of is neutrophils and macrophages--inflammatory cells--releasing reactive oxygen species (ROS)--reactive oxygen radicals--at the site of inflammation, which can damage normal tissue and their DNA. With enough changes and damages--in particular, mutations and translocations to genes that regulate cell growth--the cells can undergo anaplasia and ultimately dysplasia and neoplasia (cancer).

Check our wikipedia for these term, "reactive oxygen species" and the section on caner ( as well as the textbook "Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease" if you can get your hands on it.

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Welcome to Biology and thanks for your interesting answer. Would you happen to have some references to back your answer up? – AliceD Aug 29 at 23:09

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