The importance of regular life habits - the association of cancer and immune system

The immune system is the natural defense of the human body against infections and disease, and is also responsible for detecting the growth of cancer cells, or tumors, in the body. However, tumors can weaken or stop the function of detection. This malfunction of the immune system affects the development and spread of cancer cells that form tumor.

1. Why do some cancer cells escape attack by the immune system?

There are three stages of tumor growth, dependent on their interaction with the immune system. These stages are called elimination, equilibrium, and escape.

1-1. Elimination

Normally, cell growth is controlled through many internal mechanisms in the body. However, when some cells turn into cancer cells, this control mechanism is turned off, and cancer cells grow and multiply significantly, forming a tumor. Then, the immune system attacks these cells at the early stage of growth and eliminates them. This is called elimination phase.

1-2. Equilibrium

Some of these tumors may escape the attack from the immune system due to several factors. This stage is called equilibrium phase. At this point, the tumor stops growing and is in a state of equilibrium, because the immune system is still trying to fight the tumor cells.

1-3. Escape

Gradually, the tumor that stopped growing learns how to modify itself in order to overcome the immune attack. This phase is called the escape phase.

In the escape phase, the cancer cells, which form the tumor, may undergo genetic changes that give them the ability to overcome the attack of the immune system. This includes techniques like stopping the function that the immune system uses to identify cancer cells and effectively hiding the cancer cells from the immune system to escape from immune system.
These cancer cells make the immune system follow their orders, and use them to attack other cancer-cell-killing immune cells. Thereafter, it is free to grow and spread to other parts of the body without being hindered by the immune system.

Thus, cancer cells can sometimes have the power to overcome the immune system. Therefore, it is important to keep the immune system normal.

2. How to keep the immune system normal

Lifestyle habits are important to keep the immune system functioning optimally. Consumption of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and quitting smoking are some of the lifestyle habits that can boost the immune system. However, as described above, there are some tumors that can escape immune attack. Therefore, as well as keeping in mind regular lifestyle habits, being aware of applicable cancer screenings, and participating in regular cancer screenings to identify a tumor in its initial stages of growth, before it can overcome the immune system, are of critical importance.

* The test method and the screening system for cancer vary between different countries and regions.

This column has been prepared under the supervision of a physician for the purpose of providing general information on cancer.
It is not a substitute for the advice and services that should be provided by a physician or other healthcare professional. If you notice any health conditions, please consult your family doctor or a specialist.

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