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We know that most cancers happen because of aging, lifestyle choices, and exposure to harmful environmental factors like chemicals or UV rays from the sun. Sometimes changes that lead to cancer are inherited from our parents in our DNA, and sometimes they happen by chance.

Cancer research is the study of how and why these changes happen and how to find the changes sooner, treat them more effectively, or hopefully stop them in the first place.

Cancer research is much more than looking at cells under a microscope—although that is part of the process. It involves scientists and doctors from many different areas of study. It also depends on people with and without cancer who are willing to give samples or be part of research studies that help find new and better ways to treat the disease.

Types of Cancer Research

Basic Research

Basic research happens in the laboratory. These scientists seek to understand how nature works, such as how healthy cells function and grow and how diseased cells such as cancer develop and spread.

Clinical Research

Clinical research tests drugs, medical devices, and medical procedures in the clinic or hospital. People volunteer to be part of these studies, called clinical trials, which help improve treatments and patient care.

Population Research

Population research looks at the causes of cancer based on health, environment, and lifestyle choices. These scientists also study cancer trends in different populations, as well as how cancer screening and care reach people based on their income, where they live, or other factors.

Translational Research

Translational research is the term for taking what we know from basic research and clinical research and turning it into new treatments in everyday care. Translational research can also mean using results from clinical and population research to test new ideas in the laboratory. The Society of Huntsman Translational Scholars recognizes excellence in this area.

Learn much more about cancer research from the National Cancer Institute.

Infographic showing the types of cancer research