Bad Luck is a Major Factor in Cancer Development
The luck of the draw plays the bigger role in most cancer cases compared to the environment or one’s parents. There was a study that came out which “launched hundreds of scientific rebuttals, insinuations that the authors had been paid off by the chemical industry…”
So the idea that genetics and environment were less of an impact cancer risk than general poor luck was found to be controversial. For example, the stoppage of smoking and the cleanliness in the local environment were lesser factors than bad chances.
Recently, the authors of the research published a new study in Science with a “double down on their original finding but also labour mightily to correct widespread misinterpretations of it.”
The researchers used health records from 69 nations with evidence of cancer mutations coming from simple bad luck with the regular division of a cell. That is, there is a copying error in the DNA with the attempts at normal replication.
However, this does not mean the 66% of the cancers are not preventable. However, the errors occur.
It was noted that this should comfort many patients by Dr. Bert Vogelstein at Johns Hopkins University and the “senior author” of the first study. Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, described this as a “significant improvement” on the original paper.
It was noted that the in other research “roughly 42 percent of cancers are preventable by, for instance, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and not being exposed to cancer-causing pollutants.”
Others seemed less impressed with the research such as Dr. Yusuf Hannun, who is the director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center. Dr. Hannun’s research paper in 2015 showed that external or extrinsic factors rather than random DNA copying were greater risk factors.
Not all critics of the first paper were swayed, however. “I am not very impressed with the overall conclusion,” said Dr. Yusuf Hannun.
Some nuances were found in the research. For example, the large intestine’s cells divide more frequently than other cells. Only 5% of patients develop cancer there. The small intestine cells divide with less frequency, and “only 0.2 percent of people develop cancer there.”
Each division gives the chance for a copying error in the DNA. So, the more divisions there are the more cancers there will be. This as the argument put forward by the Johns Hopkins research team. 2/3rds of the difference in the cancer rates depend on the copying rate.
This was a consistent finding for 17 cancer classifications or “types” and in the 69 nations examined.
So the 66% difference comes from the differential rate of division in cell types, e.g. large intestine cells versus small intestine cells. The new analysis of the Johns Hopkins team is based on research in the United Kingdom cancer-causing mutations sources database.
Three categories are looked into in it: “the environment, heredity, or those random DNA-copying mistakes.” It is a first for examination of the “proportions of mutations in cancer and assigned them,” Cristian Tomasetti said, who is a Johns Hopkins mathematician.
After examination, it was found that 66% of the mutations occur in virtue of random copying errors during DNA replication, with 29% due to environment and then 5 percent based on heredity.
So different cancers have difference occurrences, and can “differ significantly.” For instance, 60% of the mutations that can cause skin or lung cancer come from the environment, with 15%, or less, for “prostate, bone, brain, and breast cancers.”
The Johns Hopkins researchers had a prior argument that the bad luck meant that smoking or bad diet, or genetic predisposition, played little role in the acquisition of the various cancers. But this new research takes a different line of approach.
But the other scientists – “cancer experts” – noted that several mutations cause cancer. It takes multiple pathways to get to the goal of cancer with cancer mutations. Single mutations happen, but multiple mutations then can cause the cancer.
“Therefore, if two out of three required mutations arise from copying mistakes, but the third comes from an environmental carcinogen, then avoiding that carcinogen prevents the cancer,” and the John Hopkins research group agrees.
So the new research differentiates “between” the preventability of a cancer and the cancer-causing mutations. “For instance, 65 percent of mutations in lung cancers arose randomly but 89 percent of those cancers are preventable by avoiding smoking,” Tomasetti said.
The environment can play a large role in the development of cancer with more leverage for prevention by implication. For example, the insulin, inflammation, and obesity levels.
“Environmental exposures can influence cancer risk in many ways,” Ross Prentice, cancer biostatistician at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center said.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.