Brinkmann Gynaecology

Cancer is rarely just bad luck

Cancer is rarely just bad luck 

The overwhelming majority of common cancers are caused by the way people live and not by random malfunctions of the body, new research suggests. Cancers arise when stem cells go rogue and divide uncontrollably. This can be caused by instrinsic factors (natural processes that happen within the body) or extrinsic ones (such as smoking). But which is the key determinant? Early last year, researchers opened up the debate on the impact of "bad luck" in cancer, arguing that the crucial question is the rate of cell division. Following this logic, they concluded that as many as two-thirds of cancers are caused by intrinsic factors over which we haave no control. Now, however, a team at Stony Brook Cancer Centre in NewYork has come back with some very different findings: they argue that cells don't divide quickly enough to explain cancer rates; and that the "luck" theory doesn't explain the variance in rates of particular cancers around the world. Their analysis - based on popular studies, genetics and computer modelling - suggests that 70-90% of cancers are due to extrinsic causes. "People can't smoke and say it's bad luck if they have cancer," Dr Yusif Hannun told BBC News Online. "It is like a revolver; intrinsic risk is one bullet. And if playing Russian roulette, maybe one is six will get cancer - that's the bad luck. What a smoker does is add two or three more bullets. There is an element of luck as not every smoker gets cancer, but they have stacked the odds against them."

Article credited to "The Week" Magazine