• University of Leeds

Causes of Human Disease: Exploring Cancer and Genetic Disease

Explore how the unravelling of genetic code has led to a deeper understanding of genetic diseases and cancer.

29,205 enrolled on this course

Image of DNA helix genetics

Causes of Human Disease: Exploring Cancer and Genetic Disease

29,205 enrolled on this course

  • 2 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Accreditation available

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Understand the role of genes in cancer and genetic disease

It’s widely known that some diseases run in families. The discovery of the structure of DNA and the unravelling of the genetic code has led to a deeper understanding of such diseases. We now know more about the genetic basis of cancer and how cancer cells are formed and reproduce. On this course you’ll explore the structure of DNA, its processes and learn how genetic disease results from DNA alterations. You’ll look closely at the nature of these changes, causes and risk factors – this is vital in the case of cancer, as prevention has proved to be an effective way of managing this disease.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds My name’s Dr. Phil Burns. I am a senior lecturer in the medical school at University of Leeds. I have been an active researcher since my mid-20s, and I’ve always had an interest in genetics. So the course concentrates very much on the genetic basis of disease. The main one which we’ll be covering is cancer, which is probably the commonest type of disease that affects humans, but we’ll also be touching on the rarer types of genetic disease that are passed on through families and generations. The key takeaway messages are that there are known causes of human genetic diseases, particularly cancer.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds We’ve studied the causes of cancer for many decades now, and we have a very good understanding of what particular factors or exposures that lead to cancer or increase people’s risk of cancer. And, at the very least, we’d like people to have an appreciation of those sorts of risks and exposures, and to think about how themselves, or as human societies, we can actually look to prevent or reduce the incidence of cancer through reducing those sorts of exposures.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 seconds Sign up now for Causes of Human Disease: Exploring Cancer and Genetic Disease.


  • Week 1

    What is the structure and function of genes?

    • Welcome

      Welcome to Causes of Human Disease: Exploring Cancer and Genetic Disease. This course explores the types of mistakes in our genes that can lead to disease and explores the consequences of such mistakes.

    • DNA, genes and chromosomes

      In this activity, you look at the structure of DNA, genes and chromosomes. You also explore the information that DNA contains, in order to understand the basis of genetic disease.

    • Why are proteins important?

      In this activity, you look at what cells do in relation to proteins, how proteins are made, and you explore the cell cycle.

    • What happens when DNA replication goes wrong?

      In this activity, you look at replication mistakes within DNA, how cells protect their genes from mistakes, and the consequences of mistakes.

    • Revision

      This revision activity is optional and is designed for those signed up for the Causes of Human Diseases program.

    • Summary

      To close this week of the course, you will have the opportunity to reflect on the week and explore the Glossary.

  • Week 2

    What happens when genes malfunction?

    • About Week 2

      This week you will explore the consequences to human health when genes that control important processes in human cells malfunction.

    • Causes of cancer

      This activity explores the wide variety of different agents that can cause cancer.

    • Transformation of normal cells into cancer cells

      This activity explores the important differences between normal cells and cancer cells.

    • Causes of genetic disease

      In this activity you explore two very different types of genetic disease, which are inherited as mutations already present in the fertilized egg: single gene disorders and chromosomal disorders.

    • Revision

      This revision activity provides further opportunity for you to explore the topics covered this week. It is recommended you complete this activity if you have signed up for the program and are working towards academic credit.

    • Summary

      Phil reflects on the week through a summary of discussions, questions and comments. There is also an opportunity for you to test your understanding and find out more about the other courses in the program.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service as conforming to continuing professional development principles. By completing the course the learner has achieved 14 hours of CPD time.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore how some diseases are caused by problems with our genes.
  • Identify what genes are and the role they can play in human disease.
  • Explain the basis of inherited disease and cancer.
  • Describe what cancer is.
  • Summarise the main risk factors for cancer.

Who is the course for?

The course is suitable for anyone with a general interest in the science behind causes of human disease. No previous knowledge or experience is required. If you are working in nursing, healthcare or social care, or just wish to learn more, this course is designed to support you as a professional. By completing all aspects of the course you will have achieved 14 hours of CPD time.

Who will you learn with?

I am a senior lecturer in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds. I have a strong interest in medical education and cancer research.

Who developed the course?

University of Leeds

As one of the UK’s largest research-based universities, the University of Leeds is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and a centre of excellence for teaching.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save


For the first month. Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$94/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 10 Apr 2023

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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