DEC 24, 2015 8:12 AM PST

Heart Cancer: Is There Such a Thing?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In 2014 the most common cancer diagnosis was breast cancer, followed by prostate, lung, colon, skin, and brain cancer. By contrast, the Mayo clinic estimates that leading hospitals around the country see less than one case of heart cancer every year. Ever wonder why this is so?

The short answer has to do with cell division, or lack thereof, in the heart cells. Unlike skin or colon cells that are constantly dividing and shedding, heart cells don't usually participate in this renewal process (unless there's been damages). With such few cell divisions, heart cells have very small chances of accumulating enough mutations to become cancerous. Additionally, the heart doesn't get exposed to too many external carcinogens, other than those found in blood. This also significantly lowers the mutation rate of heart cells.

Though rare, heart cancer is possible, and it usually involves cancer from other nearby organs like the breast, kidney, and lung. Elsewhere in the body, cancer can also migrate large distances to affect the heart.

While the chances of getting heart cancer is low, we still need to remember to take good care of this vital organ because heart disease is still among one of the biggest killers for adults.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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