Cancer has been the disease of the century and continues to frighten us. Although medical studies have been progressing in finding ways to fight cancer and many people managed to defeat this atrocious affliction, still many more die from it each year. Cancer is an ugly word we don’t like to pronounce too often, nor hear it uttered by someone dear to us. Nevertheless, cancer finds its way into our lives, even our pets’ lives. Yes, even dogs and cats get cancer and it’s devastating to see them suffer and perish right in front of your eyes. Still, have you ever heard of plants getting cancer? Not really, right? There are trees that can live for hundreds of years and have no problem with cancer. How is that even possible? Or do plants get cancer, but it doesn’t have the same effect on them as it has on us? Let’s find out!
Can plants get cancer?
Plants can get cancer, but it isn’t deadly for them. Plants can keep cancerous cells contained withing cell walls and grow around any type of cancerous tumor due to their flexibility. The bottom line is, for plants, cancer is just a minor inconvenience they can get over very fast and without much fuss. Their cells are stationary and they do not have any vital, complex organs like us humans or animals, so cancer has no “headquarters” to destroy. Let me explain.
You get this deadly army of cancerous cells that attach a human or animal body. They make their way around the body until they reach an important headquarter, like the lungs. They attack it and if they are victorious they can spread to other headquarters as well. Now, let’s imagine this “cancer army” trying to conquer a plant’s body. There are no headquarters there. A plant’s cellular world is a vast barren territory where there are just different tribes that can move very fast if their camp is attacked. So, basically, cancer in a plant body would be like Napoleon’s army marching into the barren, icy territories of Russia. You very well know how that ended.
What is cancer?
This question was inevitable. We all know we should fear cancer, but do we know what it really is? Let’s find out. Simply put, cancer happens when some cells in our body become abnormal and start to grow uncontrollably. Basically, they were once on our side, but they had some errors or mutations that turned them against us. Cancer starts in our genetic code but ends up opposing us.
Our DNA is basically the blueprint of our human body. Our cells get the information they need from our genetic code, but sometimes they pick up the wrong information and cancer appears. Cancer can also be triggered by external factors, such as ultraviolet radiation or other free radicals. It’s not unusual for cells to malfunction. Our body has a way of shutting down cells that have errors. The process is called apoptosis. However, a cell might get an error that prevents it from killing itself and thus the dangerous cell starts growing and dividing in a tumor.
There are two types of tumors: benign tumors and malignant tumors. The first one contains malfunctioning cells that grow quite slowly and only in their initial location; they do not spread further. The malignant tumors, on the other hand, are made up of malfunctioning cells that grow at a rapid rate and break free from their location to spread to other organs using our bloodstream as means of transportation. This process is called metastasis.
Plants don’t get metastasis.
The process described above does not happen in plants. If in us humans one single cancerous cell can wreak havoc from toe to head, in plants there is no such thing. A plant cell is different from an animal cell in that it contains an impenetrable wall that keeps every cell in its place preventing them from migrating throughout the organism. This gives trees their rigidity and structure. A plant’s circulatory system only pumps water through the plant, not cells, so if the plants develop cancerous cells, they will stay in just one place and the plant can grow on regardless of them. Are plants luckier than us? What do you think?