Health Insider Update


New Study Proves that Cancer is not just ‘Bad Luck’

New Study Proves that Cancer is not just ‘Bad Luck’
December 18
17:43 2015

A new study suggests that cancer is not just bad luck, but a direct result of the environment in which we live.

Earlier in 2015, researchers began to argue after someone stated that cancer was mostly due to bad luck and not factors like smoking cigarettes. To prove this hypothesis wrong, a group of doctors from New York’s Stony Brook Cancer Centre tackled the problem from four angles including genetic approaches, computer modeling, and population data.

The results, which were published in the journal Nature, show that between 10% and 30% of cancer causes are due to luck, while the rest can be pinned to specific environmental factors.

The analysis is “pretty convincing,” agreed experts.

Cancer, which is loosely defined as ‘a stem cell going rogue and multiplying out of control,’ can be caused by internal factors (i.e. part of the body’s natural functioning such as cell mutation during division) or external factors (i.e. smoking cigarettes and UV radiation).

The journal Science ran a report in January that explained why some body tissues are more at risk to developing cancer than others. Cells that divide more often are at a righter risk of mutating. This is out of our control, and thus the bad luck hypothesis was born.

In the study referenced above, results were consistent in that between 70% and 90% of cancer cases were due to external factors. “External factors play a big role, and people cannot hide behind bad luck,” said lead researcher Dr. Yusuf Hannun. “They can’t smoke and say it’s bad luck if they have cancer.

Gun“It is like a revolver,” Hannun continued, “intrinsic risk is one bullet. And if playing Russian roulette, then maybe one in six will get cancer – that’s the intrinsic bad luck. Now, what a smoker does is add two or three more bullets to that revolver. And now, they pull the trigger. There is still an element of luck as not every smoker gets cancer, but they have stacked the odds against them.”

He noted the importance of removing as many bullets as possible “from a public health view.” However, not all causes of cancer have been identified and some of them may be unavoidable.

“They do provide pretty convincing evidence that external factors play a major role in many cancers, including some of the most common,” says applied stats Professor Kevin McConway of the Open University. “This study demonstrates that we have to look well beyond pure chance and luck to understand and protect against cancers.”

Cancer researcher Dr. Emma Smith adds: “While healthy habits like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and cutting back on alcohol are not a guarantee against cancer, they do dramatically reduce the risk of developing the disease.”


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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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