According to a new study produced by the scientists from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, two-thirds of all cancer cases result from bad luck, and not environmental reasons, genetics, smoking, or increased sun exposure. The researchers noted that random mutations accumulating in various parts of the body, during ordinary cell division are the main factors behind many types of cancers.
The study, which was published on New Years’ day, used a statistical model to compare lifetime incidence rates of a variety of cancers within 31 corresponding tissue types, including leukemia, pancreatic, bone, testicular, ovarian, and brain cancer. The research revealed that of those 31, 22 cancer types resulted in mutation, with no other outside factors. The study ultimately revealed that most times, cancer just happens, and the best way to fight this depilating disease is through early detection.
“If two-thirds of cancer incidence across tissues is explained by random DNA mutations that occur when stem cells divide, then changing our lifestyle and habits will be a huge help in preventing certain cancers, but this may not be as effective for a variety of others,” said biomathematician Cristian Tomasetti, one of the authors of the paper. “We should focus more resources on finding ways to detect such cancers at early, curable stages,” he added.
It’s important to note, that the study also revealed that poor lifestyle factors like smoking and tanning might still be considered bad health choices, as lung and skin cancer are among the one third of cancer types where lifestyle choices may still play a contributing role.
“Cancer-free longevity in people exposed to cancer-causing agents, such as tobacco, is often attributed to their ‘good genes,’ but the truth is that most of them simply had good luck,” said the study co-author Bert Vogelstein.
The researchers were quick to note that the study did not include breast cancer (most common in women), and prostate cancer (second-most common cancer in men); as they simply were unable to find a reliable stem cell division rate for these cancer types.