Carcinogenesis (the creation of cancer), is the process by which normal cells are transformed into cancer cells.
Cell division is a physiological process that occurs in almost all tissues and under many circumstances. Under normal circumstances, the balance between proliferation and programmed cell death, usually in the form of apoptosis, is maintained by tightly regulating both processes to ensure the integrity of organs and tissues. Mutations in DNA that lead to cancer (only certain mutations can lead to cancer and the majority of potential mutations will have no bearing) disrupt these orderly processes by disrupting the programming regulating the processes.
Carcinogenesis is caused by this mutation of the genetic material of normal cells, which upsets the normal balance between proliferation and cell death. This results in uncontrolled cell division and the evolution of those cells by natural selection in the body. The uncontrolled and often rapid proliferation of cells can lead to benign tumors; some types of these may turn into malignant tumors (cancer). Benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body or invade other tissues, and they are rarely a threat to life unless they compress vital structures or are physiologically active; for instance, producing a hormone. Malignant tumors can invade other organs, spread to distant locations (metastasis) and become life-threatening.
More than one mutation is necessary for carcinogenesis. In fact, a series of several mutations to certain classes of genes is usually required before a normal cell will transform into a cancer cell. Only mutations in those certain types of genes which play vital roles in cell division, apoptosis (cell death), and DNA repair will cause a cell to lose control of its cell proliferation.