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University of Leeds

Causes of Human Disease: Exploring Cancer and Genetic Disease

University of Leeds via FutureLearn


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.

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.


  • What is the structure and function of genes?
    • Welcome
    • DNA, genes and chromosomes
    • Why are proteins important?
    • What happens when DNA replication goes wrong?
    • Revision
    • Summary
  • What happens when genes malfunction?
    • About Week 2
    • Causes of cancer
    • Transformation of normal cells into cancer cells
    • Causes of genetic disease
    • Revision
    • Summary

Taught by

Phil Burns


4.9 rating, based on 19 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at FutureLearn based on 53 ratings

Start your review of Causes of Human Disease: Exploring Cancer and Genetic Disease

  • Very informative and current. It is for anyone curious to learn about genetics and how it affects cancer and its progression.
    It is long and gives many opportunities to do your own research on a topic related to cancer and genetics. Anyone interested or curious to learn about genetics and cancer will benefit from the material available in this class. A good class on the topic and part of the series 'causes of human diseases. Happy and healthy learning!
  • Anonymous
    Hi everyone, My name is Mike from southern Ontario, Canada. My wife and I run a counselling practice and are very interested in holistic health, spiritual as well as mental, physical and seeing how our 'whole health' affects our bodies. We want th…
  • Ros Cole
    This was a very interesting course and I think a basic level of biological understanding would be useful e.g. basic cell biology and genetics. It is at times quite challenging as there is a lot to take in and remember; learners are kept on their to…
  • Anonymous
    An excellent course well taught by Dr Phil Burns. A difficult subject without some science background but very well constructed with quite searching questions - makes one go back and review topics. I found it very helpful and a great update to some of my previous studies - well worth doing this course, has fired my enthusiasm to flesh out some other ares.
  • Anonymous
    Having retired 25 years ago from working in responsible international companies making pharmaceuticals, veterinary and agricultural chemical & biological products, I have much enjoyed in updating my earlier knowledge.
    I found a few parts quite difficult to remember and I did not have sufficient time to take full notes...short term memory not being so good at age 75 and I have voluntary jobs to attend to.
    However, the course was very well organised, the text simple but fully comprehensible & logical in sequence. Excellent overall and well worth the effort of completing it.
  • Linda Baynes
    I found this a very demanding course in Week 1 when we focussed on the science of genetics and proteins. I had been expecting a layman's overview and some of the input lost me. Week 2 was far more accessible when we talked about disease and I realised the information of Week 1 was crucial for us to move on with our learning.

    Having said the course was demanding, this is not a criticism. I enjoyed the challenge and learned a lot.
  • Profile image for JBSG
    Very interesting material. I found it to be quite surface level, and when it wasn't as surface level it left me with more questions that went unexplained. Would love there to be more definitions or explanations of specific subject words that aren't explained until reaching the glossary. Overall I learned more about how cancer affects our DNA than before this course.
  • Anonymous
    As a genetics student, this course for me was a refreshing revision. Highly recommend it if you are someone who wants to understand the basics of molecular biology and the connection between cancer and proteins.
  • Anonymous
    The course was just amazing. It helped me a lott as I was completely unaware of few terms and I got to learn them during the course. I really enjoyed it
  • Anonymous
    I really liked the topics and it certainly has very important information. Thanks for the knowledge passed to us!
  • Anonymous
    I am an ophthalmologist from Chile. I enjoyed this well-thought genetic course. The course succeed in making understandable something that at first glance may look intimidating, like the molecular basis of genetics. Understanding genetics at the mol…
  • Anonymous
    Excellant course. Well detailed and informed. Brief notes, great diagrams and great courses. I'd definitely recommend this course to any student studying any course related to biomedical science/biological science. Future Learnn is really a really useful website for students who wantto gather extra resources and further their revision on our course. I use courses like this to bolster my revision.
    I rated this course a 5 star due to the clear facts that the course was very smooth and organised, the people running these courses definetly have the students at their best interest as there's no unnecessary paid for courses.
  • Anonymous
    I‘m a radiologist working in China right now. I really get a lot from this course even though I
    haven't completely understood all of the details due to my poor English and my limited relating knowledge。I suppose I understand 75 percent of the course content。I cant say enough thanks to all the contributors for this fabulous course,special thanks to those who articulated in the teaching vedios,they enunciated everything in a proper speaking speed,that's extremely important for us non-native speakers of English to catch up。Great learning experience!
  • Anonymous
    I found part one more difficult to grasp as it contained sone new information for mewhich was very interesting. It was good revision and learning for me as a physiotherapist.
  • Anonymous
    Very interesting, and I learnt a lot about the causes of genetic diseases - however I think a prior knowledge of genetics would be helpful, as it is a very detailed course.
  • Anonymous
    I am a retired pharmacist and took this just for personal interest. It was very complex but very interesting.
    Thank you.
  • Wendy Abbott
    Excellent course which in such a short time delivers an abundance of information and knowledge which I have found exceptional.
  • Anonymous
    I really loved the course and learning with leeds was so helpful thank you for every thing wish to come to it and be a member.
  • Anonymous
    Hi am rekha and i learnt a lot in this course as it is rendered in a clear way. Hope to learn in more such courses .

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