Posted on Jan 02, 2015

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world today. But is there one general reason that is the cause of most cancer cases?

Reuters reports on biological bad luck. Guess what plays the biggest role in your health’s future? Exercise? Diet plan? Yoga? Nope, it is your genes!

The study shows that simple unluckiness plays a major role in determining who gets cancer and who does not, according to researchers who found that two-thirds of cancer incidence of various types can be blamed on random mutations and not heredity or dangerous habits like smoking.

How was the study conducted?

The researchers reported this week that random DNA mutations accumulating in various parts of the body during normal cell division are the main culprits behind many forms of cancer.

“They looked at 31 cancer types and found that 22 of them, including leukemia and pancreatic, bone, testicular, ovarian and brain cancer, could be explained largely by these random mutations - essentially biological bad luck. The other nine types, including colorectal cancer, skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma and smoking-related lung cancer, were more heavily influenced by heredity and environmental factors like risky behavior or exposure to carcinogens,” according to Reuters.

What were the results? After seeing everything, researchers found that around 65 percent of cancer incidences were tied to random mutations in genes that can drive cancer growth.

Experts said harmful mutations happen for no specific reason other than randomness as the body's master cells, called stem cells, divide in many different tissues. Researchers also said the study indicates that changing one's lifestyle and habits such as smoking to avoid cancer risks may aid in preventing certain cancers, but may not be as effective for others.

Dr. Tomasetti who co-authored the study said,

“Since harmful mutations happen for no particular reason and based on the research done, we should focus more research and resources on finding ways to detect such cancers at early, curable stage.”

The research team lined the cumulative number of lifetime divisions in the stem cells of a given tissue to test their hypothesis. For example, they would use samples from the lungs or colon, and then compared that to the lifetime cancer risk in that tissue.

Researchers found that generally, tissues that undergo more divisions - thus increasing the probability of random mutations - were more likely to get to tumors.

The research did not include every type of cancer. Breast and prostate cancer were not studied due to the fact that the researchers were unable to ascertain reliable stem cell division rates.

Experts hope that people take this information into account but still also try to maintain a healthy diet with more antioxidants. They also hope the importance of exercise and yoga is not weakened. Despite one’s genes it is still necessary to try everything one can to try to stay healthy and cancer free according to experts.


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Gerry Oginski
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