What is the Difference Between Cancer Cells and Normal Cells

The main difference between cancer cells and normal cells is that the cancer cells have an uncontrolled growth and cell division whereas the growth and cell division of normal cells is controlled. Furthermore, cancer cells are immortal while normal cells undergo apoptosis when aged or damaged.  

Cancer cells and normal cells are two types of cells that can occur in the body of animals or plants. Cancer cells have variations in size and shape while normal cells have a defined size and shape. 

Key Areas Covered 

1. What are Cancer Cells
     – Definition, Formation, Characteristics
2. What are Normal Cells
     – Definition, Characteristics, Function
3. What are the Similarities Between Cancer Cells and Normal Cells
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Cancer Cells and Normal Cells
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms 

Cancer Cells, Cell Division, Growth, Metastasis, Normal Cells, Reproduction

Difference Between Cancer Cells and Normal Cells - Comparison Summary

What are Cancer Cells 

Cancer cells are abnormal cells with uncontrolled cell division and growth. These cells are derived from normal cells. Mutations and genetic changes cause the alteration of the general functioning of them. The three main genetic factors that induce cancers are tumor suppressor genes, which slow down the cell division, proto-oncogenes, which control the normal growth of cell division, and repair genes that fix the damages. 

What is the Difference Between Cancer Cells and Normal Cells

Figure 1: Metastasis 

Cancer cells show a high rate of cell division, causing the formation of a tumor. Also, they undergo continuous angiogenesis, the formation of blood vessels between cell masses. The most characteristic feature of cancer cells is the metastasis in which the cells of a tumor float through the blood and deposit in the nearby tissues. This spreads cancer throughout the body over time.  

What are Normal Cells 

Normal cells are the regular body cells whose growth and division are under control. They represent millions of cells in the body that are organized into tissues. These cells perform unique functions based on their tissue. They have a predetermined size and shape as well. A specific type of stem cells produces immature, normal cells that are tissue-specific. The immature cells become mature by processes known as differentiation and specialization.

Main Difference - Cancer Cells and Normal Cells

Figure 2: Normal and Cancer Cells 

The cell cycle of normal cells has to be passed through various checkpoints. If the cells are unable to perform the functions required by any of these checkpoints, these cells are forced to die.  

Similarities Between Cancer Cells and Normal Cells 

  • Cancer cells and normal cells can be found in animal or plant body. 
  • Both undergo cell cycle. 

Difference Between Cancer Cells and Normal Cells 

Definition 

The cancer cells refer to cells that divide relentlessly, forming solid tumors or flooding the blood with abnormal cells while the normal cells refer to regular body cells that perform a specific function.  

Growth and Division 

Cancer cells show uncontrolled growth and cell division while growth and cell division are controlled in normal cells. 

Maturation 

The cancer cells have a rapid cell division and they divide before their maturation while the normal cells stop cell division when the adequate number of cells are present and then undergo maturation. 

Intercellular Communication 

Cancer cells do not communicate with nearby cells while normal cells communicate with nearby cells for homeostatic purposes.  

Size and Shape 

Cancer cells have altered size and shape while normal cells have a defined size and shape. 

Nucleus  

The nucleus of cancer cells is larger and darker while the nucleus of normal cells is comparatively small and light in color. 

Number and Organization of the Chromosomes 

The cancer cells have an abnormal number of chromosomes while the normal cells have a defined number of chromosomes in the nucleus. Further, the arrangement of chromosomes in the nucleus in cancer cells is abnormal while chromosomes are well-arranged in the nucleus in normal cells. 

Boundary 

Cancer cells are a cluster of cells without a boundary while normal cells have defined arrangements and boundary. 

Blood Supply through Angiogenesis  

Cancer cells undergo continuous angiogenesis, which promotes the continuous growth and cell division while normal cells undergo angiogenesis only during the formation of new tissue. 

Energy 

The cancer cells derive their energy mainly from glycolysis while 20% of the energy of the normal cells comes from glycolysis and 70% comes from the Krebs cycle. 

Repair and Death 

The cancer cells are not repaired and they do not undergo apoptosis while the normal cells are repaired and they undergo apoptosis when damaged. 

Stickiness 

Cancer cells do not produce substances that stick them together while normal cells produce sticky substances. Therefore, cancer cells float away to the locations nearby through the bloodstream.  

Spread 

Cancer cells have the ability to spread while normal cells do not spread. 

Detection by the Immune System 

The cancer cells can escape from the detection by the immune system while the normal cells are identified and removed by the immune system when damaged. 

Function 

The cancer cells do not have a defined function while the normal cells have a defined function. 

Conclusion 

Cancer cells are abnormal cells with uncontrolled growth and division. In contrast, normal cells perform regular functions of the body. Cancer cells also have different genetic composition and arrangement from the normal cells. The main difference between cancer cells and normal cells is the type of growth and division. 

Reference:

1. “Cell Division and Cancer.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, Available Here

Image Courtesy:

1. “Diagram showing cancer cells spreading into the blood stream CRUK 448″ By Cancer Research UK uploader – Own work, (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Normal and cancer cells (labeled) illustration” By Pat Kenny – This image was released by the National Cancer Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health, with the ID 2493 (image) (next). (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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