Small Intestine Cancer

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

Do we know what causes small intestine adenocarcinoma?

Very little is known about the causes of small intestine adenocarcinoma. In fact, many experts wonder why it is so rare. The small intestine is the longest structure in the gastrointestinal tract, yet it has only 2% or less of the adenocarcinomas.

As with other cancers, scientists have recognized some changes in the DNA of small intestine adenocarcinoma cells that are probably responsible for their increased growth and abnormal spread. Many of these tumors show specific genetic abnormalities. But the causes of these changes are not yet known.

One cause of these cancers is thought to be problems in repairing DNA, the large molecule that contains our genetic material. Certain genes control substances called enzymes that are responsible for repairing DNA when it makes mistakes in reproducing itself. Some have compared this to a spell checker on a computer. Without these spell checker enzymes, mistakes are not corrected and genetic mutations or changes are allowed to persist. These may cause the production of abnormal substances that lead to cancer formation.

A second theory is that mutations take place naturally with aging and that some of these will lead to cancer formation.

Last Medical Review: 02/04/2013
Last Revised: 02/14/2014