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Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell growth. Cancer begins when a single cell mutates, resulting in a breakdown of the normal regulatory controls that keep cell division in check. These mutations can be inherited, caused by errors in DNA replication, or result from exposure to harmful chemicals. A cancerous tumor can spread to other parts of the body and, if left untreated, be fatal.

Images and animations are courtesy of the National Human Genome Research Institute's Talking Glossary (

Materials for Cancer


Cancer - Rogue Cells

Description: This animation illustrates how cancer grows within the body and how different factors can lead to cancer development.

Inside Cancer Multimedia Guide to Cancer Biology

Description: This Web site offers extensive information, animations, and teaching resources on cancer diagnosis, cause, prevention, and treatment.

Role of Cancer Genes

Description: This flash animation shows you how DNA mutations are involved in the development of cancer.


Breast Cancer Risk and Environmental Factors (PDF 1.37 MB)

Description: Read this well illustrated article to learn more about risk factors for breast cancer.

Cancer and the Environment (PDF 699.44 KB)

Description: This article was developed by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. It offers detailed information to answer your questions about cancer, environmental risk, and what you can do.

Cancer Genetics Overview

Description: This Web page offers detailed information on the role gene mutations play in causing cancer, characteristics of heritable cancers, genetic counseling for cancer risk, and testing technologies used to study cancer genetics.

Genetics and Cancer

Description: Explore this page to learn more about the complex links between genes and cancer.

Is Cancer a Genetic Disease?

Description: The transition from a normal cell to a malignant cancer is driven by changes to a cell’s DNA, also known as mutations.

Pharmacogenomics and Cancer

Description: Pharmacogenomics is a specific kind of genetic testing that offers key advantages for doctors trying to choose the best drugs for their patients.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Description: Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, is a complex disease that is influenced by multiple genes and environmental factors.

What Is Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer?

Description: Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer is a rare condition, but it is the commonest inherited syndrome that predisposes sufferers to early-onset colorectal cancer.

Interactive Tutorials

Click and Learn App

Description: Interactively explore topics in biology with the Click and Learn app. Each module features supporting videos and animations (Internet connection required). Learn about topics in evolution, neurobiology, infectious diseases, bioinformatics, stem cells, RNA, obesity, cancer, and genomics.

Designing Cancer Drugs: Development of Gleevec

Description: This interactive tutorial is a case study on how new medications are designed and created. Through the case study you will see how drug design exploits the structure of a protein that causes a disease, and identify the qualities of an effective drug.

Saving the Devil

Description: This multimedia resource tells the story of the Tasmanian devil and the transmissible cancer that threatens its existence.

SCI - Skin Cancer Investigation

Description: This interactive tool gives students the opportunity to learn about skin cancer diagnosis and prevention.

Labs & Experiments

Does Sunscreen Protect My DNA?

Description: Explore how effectively different sunscreens protect yeast cells from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Teacher Resources

Cancer Risks (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this lesson students examine environmental and hereditary factors that increase the chance of developing cancer.

Cell Biology and Cancer (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This NIH Curriculum Supplement is for high school teachers. It includes lesson plans, class activities, and videos.

Does Sunscreen Protect My DNA? (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Explore how effectively different sunscreens protect yeast cells from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Environment and Gene Interactions Cancer Module (PDF 3,266.9 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This PowerPoint presentation offers a detailed introduction to genetic and environmental risk factors for cancer.

Good Cells Gone Bad (PDF 102.28 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Use this simple activity to teach your students about differences between a healthy cell and a cancerous one.

Inside Cancer - Teacher Center

Description: Use this Web tool to build classroom presentations, find lesson plans, and align content with national and local education standards.

KRAS: Cancer Mutation (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Use real genomic data to find mutations in a gene associated with pancreatic, lung and colorectal cancers.

Skin Cancer 1 - Exposing Healthy Skin to the Sun (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Use this lesson plan to give your students an understanding of the science behind keeping their skin healthy.

Skin Cancer 2 - Types, Prevention, and Detection (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson is on skin cancer, its different types, how it can be detected, and how it can be prevented.

Sun and Skin (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this lesson, students discuss what they already know about the impact sun exposure has on their skin and what they typically do to protect themselves.

The Science of Cancer (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Visit this Web page to find a collection of lesson plans, tool, science updates, and videos about cancer and cancer research.


BRAF: From Gene to Cancer Therapy

Description: This film tells the story of how DNA sequencing was used to identify that the gene BRAF is commonly mutated in malignant melanoma, and how this has led to the development of a targeted drug against the mutation.

The Burden of Knowing

Description: Genetic tests reveal important information that could help save lives. But the knowledge comes with a cost, both to individuals struggling with life-altering decisions and to their families, who must also confront their genetic destiny.