An astonishment a day - 
drives your depression away...

The incredible rarity of cancer cells.

We currently know that cancer occurs when a cell in our body goes crazy, escapes from various control mechanisms and begins to multiply uncontrollably, affecting the normal functioning of the organs.

The most amazing thing in this process is that cancerogenic cells are so incredibly rare. Statistically speaking, barely one cell per 3x1014, goes crazy and begins to act abnormally, usually with dire consequences. The figure 3x1014 is so huge that it is difficult to imagine just how rare these cancerogenic mutations are. Normally even one million is beyond our comprehension. 

As a comparison, the standard Olympic swimming pool is 50 m long, 21 m wide, and about 3 m deep. If we filled 100 such pools with black poppy seeds, and if only one grain was different, say white, we would be able to illustrate the ratio of 1: 3x1014. This is the probability of finding a crazy cell among a population of healthy cells. It shows the extremely precise nature of the division of healthy cells. No man made process or machinery can come anywhere near this level of precision. The rarity of cancer cells should seem like good news, but now comes the bad news. 

As there basically are no cancerous cells (after all who can find a single white grain in almost 100 pools full of black grains), why is there such a high incidence of cancer? The answer is due to the make up of our bodies. If we consisted only of a single cell, cancer would only occur once every few million years. Because we are made up of an impossibly large number of cells - human organism consists of 1014 individual cells ( small, dividing units!) - the statistics is merciless. It is only three time less than the number of poppy seeds in the mentioned above swimming pools. Thus
every third person carries a cancerous cell, many of which have deadly consequences. 
Currently, there still is no reliable cure, a crazy cell can occur at any time, regardless of age or sex, in any organ, in any country...




(C) (selected from publications of 
 R. Antoszewski

Titirangi, Auckland, 
New Zeland

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February  2003