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Most Cancer is Due to “Bad Luck”

March 25, 2017
Plain English Version

News about cancer.

When someone who does not smoke, says that he or she has cancer, it is often a surprise. There does not seem to be a reason. A new study about cancer also has a surprise. It is that most cases of cancer happen without a triggering cause. That is, most cases of cancer happen by chance.

Most cases of cancer do not come from our parents through our genes. They do not come from our lifestyles.

To stay alive, our cells must divide. Scientists say they mutate. Cancer occurs during that process. But it is not that simple. A single mutation gone wrong will not cause cancer. It can take three, four or more mutations to make a cell turn malignant.

Three out of four cases of pancreatic cancer are the result of cell mutations. The study said mutating genes also are the cause of most breast cancers and prostate cancers.

It is a good idea not to smoke. That has not changed. Most lung cancer comes from activities like smoking.

Humans have trillions of genes. They regenerate by dividing and making new cells. It is our DNA. DNA is the hereditary material in humans. Each time DNA is copied, about three random mistakes will take place. Most are harmless. But a small number can affect genes that will promote cancer.

Experts differ about the “bad luck” findings. They do not want people to feel “there is nothing they can do” to avoid getting cancer. They believe the environment is still the most important factor. They say that diet, weight control, exercise and not smoking are still important.

The study says that two out of three cases of cancer are random. What else does that mean? It means that one out of three might be prevented.

The findings of the study point to more effort to detect cancer at an earlier stage. One doctor said that early detection is something medicine is “very bad at.” Early detection may become more important.

Source: The Washington Post March 23, 2017

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