Here's Why You Never Hear About Heart Cancer

Here's Why You Never Hear About Heart Cancer

You've heard of brain cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer...the list goes on. If it exists in the human body, it can get cancer. Why, then, do you never hear about someone getting heart cancer? Heart cancer is rare, but not impossible. It happens so infrequently that the American Cancer Society doesn't even list it as its own cancer in their annual statistics—it's under the umbrella of "soft tissue" cancers, which had 12,310 cases in 2016. Compare that to breast cancer, which reached nearly 300,000 cases. The Mayo Clinic reports seeing only one case of heart cancer per year.

The reason lies in the way cancer operates. Cancer starts with a mutation in a cell's DNA. Most of those mutations happen when a cell is dividing: every division requires making a copy of the DNA, and those copies aren't always perfect. It requires further copies still to pass that mutation to daughter cells, so even more cell division has to take place. That's why cancer happens so often in organs that need to replace their cells frequently, like the skin and colon. But your heart's cells almost completely stop dividing after they've formed in the womb, except to replace damaged or injured cells. That means that even if there is a mutation, it'll have a hard time spreading.

There are other things that can cause mutations that lead to cancer, too. UV radiation can cause skin cancer, carcinogens in your food can cause colon cancer, and even estrogen in the breasts can trigger a malignant tumor. The heart, however, isn't exposed to many carcinogens, so there's little worry of harmful DNA mutations. Learn more about your heart and how cancer works in the videos below.

Why Is Heart Cancer So Rare?

Heart cells aren't like the cells in your lungs or skin. Find out how they're different.

What Is Cancer?

You hear about cancer all the time, but do you know exactly how it works? Find out in this video.

06:55

from Bozeman Science

10 Things You Might Not Know About The Heart

Bet you didn't know that your heart generates enough pressure to squirt blood nine meters away.

02:41

Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    Your heart can physically break. (0:27)

  • 2

    Two hearts can synch up and beat at the same time. (1:41)

  • 3

    Women's hearts beat faster. (2:09)

See all

Cancer

Hearts

Human Biology

Medicine

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