Cancer Comes Down To Luck More Often Than Not, Study Finds

February 14, 2018 - 10:38 am

In life, we can try our hardest to do the right things and make the right decisions but sometimes the desired result isn’t achieved. That’s life. Unfortunately, according to a study led by Bert Vogelstein and Christian Tomasetti, cancer is no different. They found that cancer can be a matter of chance more often than we’d like to believe.

Vogelstein did an admirable job of breaking down the arcane scientific terms and process into layman terms. Essentially, cells divide and make mistakes copying DNA. They’re “naturally occurring mutations.” For the most part, the mistakes are negligible and not uncommon. But, unfortunately, sometimes those mistakes come in the wrong gene.

“Occasionally they occur in a cancer driver gene. That’s bad luck,” said Vogelstein.

Vogelstein and Tomasetti’s findings were published in Science Magazine, and they looked to quantify just how much of cancer could be preventable or how much of it was random.

“We all agree that 40 percent of cancers are preventable,” said Vogelstein. “The question is, what about the other cancers that aren’t known to be preventable?”

Their findings were fairly shocking: 66% of the gene mutations are completely random. To complete that pie chart, they found that 29% is due to the environment while a relatively minuscule 5% is hereditary.

To break it down further, they said that most of the time when children are diagnosed with cancer, it’s these random mutations.

“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.”

Of course, different forms of cancer have different results. For instance, lung cancer can be obviated by abstaining from tobacco.

“We’re not saying the only thing that determines the seriousness of the cancer, or its aggressiveness, or its likelihood to cause the patient’s death, are these mutations,” said Vogelstein. “We’re simply saying that they are necessary to get cancer.”