Until very recently, it was assumed that the majority of the many different types of cancer affecting the population had two main causes: the genes we inherit and the environment. However, there are other factors at play.
Factors such as the food we eat, pollution and our sometimes unhealthy lifestyles, were understood to be almost exclusive factors in determining a higher or lower risk of developing cancer.
However, it seems that this idea has changed completely.
According to a recent study, published in Science magazine carried out by geneticists at John Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA, the main cause of cancer is chance.
Two of every three genetic mutations that result in cancer are the sad outcome of a random error. It’s a mistake made every time our cells divide.
Experts are aware that these findings are going to cause some controversy.
In this article, you can find all the information you need about this topic.
Two thirds of all cancers cannot be prevented: early detection is the key
Obviously, this news in unsettling.
Does this mean that there’s no point in trying to prevent cancer? That even leading a 100% healthy life won’t prevent the number of people diagnosed with cancer from rising?
Unfortunately, the truth is that no, it won’t. What’s more, this information gives us the answer that many of us already suspected.
- There are a lot of people who are diagnosed with some type of cancer despite eating healthily, not smoking, doing regular physical exercise and not having a family history of cancer.
- Experts were very aware of the fact that there was another factor in the equation, an unknown factor that cannot be prevented.
- Not everybody is aware of the inner workings of our bodies. We regenerate; our cells are dividing every day in order to carry out basic and essential processes that keep us alive.
- However, every time a normal cells divides and DNA replication occurs to create two new cells, it can make mistakes.
The human genome has 3,000 million bases. This replication is almost always exact. However, there’s always a possibility of generating random mutation.
And therein lies the problem.
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The “bad luck” factor affects whether someone develops cancer
Bert Vogelstein, the director of this investigative project, indicated at a press conference that 66% of cell mutations that result in cancer are down to simple errors during replication.
- 29% of these replication errors are due to environmental factors. Meanwhile, our lifestyle and genetic inheritance account for little more than 5%.
- Scientists call it the “bad luck factor.” After all, it’s difficult to determine at what moment in time this error will occur, how to slow it down, or how to stop such mutations from happening.
- In fact, scientists discovered that almost 77% of cases of pancreatic cancer are the result of random DNA replication errors.
- Factors such as alcohol and tobacco account for 18% of cases, and just 5% are due to inheritance.
- Meanwhile, according to Dr. Vogelstein, 95% of cases of prostate cancer, brain cancer and bone cancer are down to “bad luck” during cell division.
Fortunately, early detection methods are getting better
These figures may leave us feeling pretty hopeless, thinking that anyone could be hit by this “bad luck factor” despite taking care of their lifestyles. However, it’s not all dark clouds on the horizon.
Science is developing new and promising techniques focused on early detection.
- A simple analysis or saliva sample could be used in some years time to detect cancer in its first mutations, when there are still no obvious signs of illness.
Also discover cryoablation, a new treatment for breast cancer.
40% of cases of cancer CAN be avoided
There are two fundamental points with regards to beating cancer, despite the dreaded “bad luck factor”: early detection and continuous prevention.
The people responsible for this work stress the importance of working daily on the following aspects:
- Creating cleaner cities, free from chemical and carcinogenic products.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
We can avoid 40% of cancer diagnoses by doing something as simple as quitting smoking, eating a more healthy and natural diet.
It’s something that we certainly know we should change, but that we don’t necessarily do.
Last but not least, we also need social organisations and healthcare institutions to establish simple, affordable and easily accessible early detection programs.
Periodic checkups for all types of cancer are, without a doubt, the foundation for being able to more effectively treat this illness.
Fortunately, we’re becoming increasingly closer to achieving it.
We may not have a cure for cancer in the near future. However, we will have hundreds of strategies and mechanisms to stop it in its tracks and reverse it.