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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: An animation describing how cancer grows within the body and how different factors can lead to cancer development.

Inside Cancer Multimedia Guide to Cancer Biology

Description: Information and animations exploring cancer characteristics, causes, prevention, and diagnosis, among other things

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: An illustrated article on breast cancer risk factors

Cancer and the Environment (PDF 699.44 KB)

Description: Detailed article on environmental risk factors for cancer

Cancer Genetics Overview

Description: 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: A general overview on cancer genetics and testing

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: A detailed interactive tutorial on how new medications are designed and created

Saving the Devil

Description: A transmissible cancer threatens the existence of the Tasmanian Devil.

SCI - Skin Cancer Investigation

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

Labs & Experiments

Does Sunscreen Protect My DNA? (PDF 256.56 KB)

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: A NIH Curriculum Supplement for high school teachers including lesson plans, class activities, and videos.

Does Sunscreen Protect My DNA? (PDF 256.56 KB, 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: A power point presentation on genetic and environmental risk factors for cancer

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

Description: An activity on the cellular changes that lead to cancer

Inside Cancer - Teacher Center

Description: A Web tool for building classroom presentations, finding lesson plans, and aligning 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: Students develop an understanding of the science behind keeping skin healthy.

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

Description: In this lesson, students develop an understanding of skin cancer and its different types, how it can be detected, and how it can be prevented.

Sun and Skin (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Students discuss what they already know about the impact sun exposure has on their skin and what they typically do to protect themselves, if anything.

The Science of Cancer (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: 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.