Everybody believed that cancer was mainly caused by smoking cigarettes, drinking too much, and leading an unhealthy life. Apparently, we were wrong. A new study shows that DNA errors are the ones responsible for two-thirds of cancer cases. This means that an unhealthy lifestyle is to blame for the other one-third.
The findings of the study are controversial. Cristian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein are the leaders of the study. With their findings, they imply that many types of cancers are unavoidable. The researchers from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center stirred up a debate between scientists when they published their first findings 2 years ago.
When they first published a report in 2015, they were criticized by many health experts. This is because they were undercutting important warnings about cancer prevention. Once people start believing that cancer is unavoidable, they might stop using preventive methods. This means that people will no longer take as much care of their health as they used to when they believed that cancer could be avoided.
When the researchers published this new study, they mentioned that 60% of cancers are caused by DNA errors and can’t be prevented. The other 40% are preventable. In order to explain how people get cancer, the researchers mentioned how DNA errors happen. Every time a cell divides is can make mistakes when it copies the DNA. This creates DNA errors or mutations.
Most of the time, these DNA errors are unimportant and harmless. Unfortunately, sometimes they turn into cancer driver genes. Once the cancer genes are mutated in one cell they turn it into a cancer cell. Since cancer cells divide and multiply a lot faster than normal cells, people get cancer. This is what the researchers meant when they spoke about DNA errors and unpreventable cancers.
The problem is that 66% of these DNA errors are random. Only 29% are caused by the environment and bad habits. The last 5% are hereditary DNA errors. Researchers mentioned that these numbers vary for every type of cancer. Lung cancer, for instance, is mainly caused by bad habits like smoking. On the other hand, many types of childhood cancer are random DNA errors.
The researchers who conducted this study mentioned that they want to assure parents that their child’s cancer is not caused by them. Despite the fact that having a healthy life keeps you away from diseases, cancer can’t be prevented sometimes. The findings of this study were published in the journal Science
“They need to understand that these cancers would have happened no matter what they did,” said Vogelstein “We don’t need to add guilt to an already tragic situation.”
Image source: Wikipedia