Chances are sadly you know someone in your life who has had or currently is battled cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. But what exactly causes cancer?
There are many factors that contribute to causing cancer. Smoking cigarettes, genetics, diet and level of physical activity, UV exposure, radiation and other carcinogens all play a role. However, according to a new study, about two-thirds cases of cancer might be linked to pain old bad luck regarding DNA mutations opposed to unhealthy lifestyle or inherited genes.
Published in Science, Christian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein from John Hopkins University analyzed 21 different cancers, finding that most of them were caused when DNA mutations accumulated during cell division.
“Every single cancer is going to be the result of all three factors: chance, environment, and hereditary,” Dr. Tomasetti said. “There are some tissues, for example bone cancer, where there is very little evidence of any important hereditary or environmental factors.”
The researchers found that 22 of cancers, including testicular, ovarian, pancreatic, bone and brain cancer are caused by these mutations. The study suggests that most cacers (65 percent) are caused by random mutations, meaning it all comes down to bad luck.
This may explain why some patients get lung cancer, even when they don’t smoke.
“All cancers are caused by a combination of bad luck, the environment and heredity, and we’ve created a model that may help quantify how much of these three factors contribute to cancer development,” Professor Vogelstein said. “This study shows that you can add to your risk of getting cancers by smoking or other poor lifestyle factors. However, many forms of cancer are due largely to the bad luck of acquiring a mutation in a cancer driver gene regardless of lifestyle and heredity factors. The best way to eradicate these cancers will be through early detection, when they are still curable by surgery.”
The researchers found that lung, skin and colorectal cancers were mainly caused by heredity and environmental factors.
The study did not include breast and prostate cancer, both which are types of cancers most common in women and men respectively. However, the research proves that some cancers are caused by bad luck.