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modified from the glossary on the National Cancer Institute's Web Stie, available from


noncancerous tumor

Ames test

Mutagenesis assay (a measure of mutagenic ability) that involves specially engineered strains of bacteria.


not cancerous; does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body

benign tumor

a noncancerous growth that dos not spread to other parts of the body


removal of a sample of tissue, which is then examined under a microscope to check for cancer cells

bone marrow

soft, spongy tissue in the center of large bones that produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets

bone marrow aspiration

removal of a samall sample of bone marrow (usually from the hip) through a needle for examination under a microscope to see whether cancer cells are present


term for a group of more than 100 diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissuews and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphocytic system to other parts of the body


any substance that is known to cause cancer

cell cycle

sequence of events by which cells enlarge and divide. Includes stages typically named G1, S, G2, and M


treatment with anticancer drugs


procedure that uses a flexible fiber optic endoscope to examine the internal surface of teh colon along its entire length


abnormal cells that are not cancer


female hormone produced by the ovary. Responsible for secondary sex characteristics and cyclic changes in the lining of the uterus and vagina


study of the casues of abnormal condition or disease

fecal occult blood test

test to reveal blood hidden in the feces, which may be a sign of colon cancer


benign uterine turmor made up of fibrous and muscular tissue

herpes virus

member of the herpes family of viruses. One type of herpes virus is sexually transmitted and causes sores on the genitals

human papillomaviruses

viruses that generally cause warts. Some papillomaviruses are sexually transmitted. Some of tese sexually tramsmitted viruses casue wartlike growths on the genitals, and some are thought to cause abnormal changes in cells of the cervix


number of new cases of a disease diagnosesd each year

incidence rate

number of new cases per year per 100,000 persons


cancerous; can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body


skin pigment (substance that gives the skin its color) Dark skinned people have more melanin than light skinned people


cancer of the cells that produce pigment in teh skin. Melanoma usually begins in a mole.


cancer growth (secondary tumors) that is anatomically separated from the site at which the original cancer developed


to spread from one part of the body to anotehr. When cancer cells matastasize and form secondary tumors, the cells in the metastatic tumor are like those in the original (primary) tumor





mortality rate

number of deaths per 100,000 persons per year


change in the way cells function or develop, caused by an inherited genetic defect or an environmental exposure. Such changes may lead to cancer


gene that normally directs cell growth but also can promote or allow the uncontrolled growth of cancer if damaged (mutated) by an environmental exposure to carcinogens or if damaged or missing because of an inherited defect


study of tumors encompassing their physical, chemical, and biologic properties


gene that, when converted to an oncogene by a mutation or other change, can cause a normal cell to become malignant. Normal oncogenes function to control normal cell growth and differentiation

relative risk

comparison of the risk of developing cancer in persons with a certain type of exposure or characteristic with the risk in persons who do ot have this exposure or characteristic


eye cancer caused by the loss of both copies of the tumor suppressor gene RB; the inherited form typically occurs in childhood because one gene is missing from the time of birth


checking for disease when there are no symptoms

SPF (sun protection factor)

scale for rating sunscreens. Sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher provide the best protection from the sun's harmful rays


doing exams and tests to learn the extent of the cancer, especially whether it has spread from its original site to other parts of the body


abnormal mass of tissue that results from excessive cell division. Tumors perform no useful body function. They may be either benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous)

tumor suppressor gene

gene in the body thant can suppress or block the development of cancer

ultraviolet (UV) radiation

invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. UV radiation can burn the skin and cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. UV radiation that reaches the earth's surface is made up of 2 types of rays UVA and UVB rays.

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