National Cancer Institute
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Science Behind the News Understanding Cancer
 
A drawing of the DNA molecules in the cell nucleus, and a diagram of one gene.

DNA Structure

Genes reside within large DNA molecules, which are composed of two chemical strands twisted around each other to form a "double helix." Each strand is constructed from millions of chemical building blocks called "bases." DNA contains only four different bases (abbreviated A, T, G, and C), but they can be arranged in any sequence. The sequential order of the bases in any given gene determines the message the gene contains, just as the letters of the alphabet can be combined in different ways to form distinct words and sentences.



 
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