Most cancer cases caused by environment & lifestyle choices, new study says
When researchers at Johns Hopkins University emphasized in January 2015 that many of the cancers were due to “bad luck” of random mutations that arise when cells divide, and not your genes or environmental factors, it set off a public health debate and caused a stir.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a press release at the time that said the agency “strongly disagrees” with the conclusion of the report. It said “concluding that ‘bad luck’ is the major cause of cancer would be misleading and may detract from efforts to identify the causes of the disease and effectively prevent it”.
Yusuf Hannun and his team of cancer researchers at New York’s Stony Brook University analyzed mathematical models, epidemiological data, and cancer cell mutation patterns to determine the contribution of environmental factors to cancer risk.
And a year later, they trashed Johns Hopkins’ findings to conclude that mutations during cell division rarely resulted in cancer — even in tissues with relatively high rates of cell division— and in nearly all of the disease instances, some level of exposure to environmental factors, like carcinogens, was necessary to trigger cancer. Ultraviolet radiation and smoking were found to be other avoidable risks.
The Cancer “Bad Luck” Hypothesis and Its Aftermath from The Linus Pauling Institute » The Linus Pauling Institute https://t.co/0EzxoawjnK
— Improving Movement (@ImproveMove) February 28, 2016
Hannun and his team also looked at how cancers change according to where people live like when people move from a low-risk area to a high-risk area and take on the risk of the high risk area. Hannun told the BBC:
Stressing that 10 to 30% of cancers were down to internal factors or ‘luck’ but external factors such as exposure to toxins and radiation increased the risk of developing cancer by 70 to 90%, the Stony Brook University researchers concluded that results “are important for strategizing cancer prevention, research, and public health”.
While Johns Hopkins mathematician Cristian Tomasetti, a study author for the January paper, argued that the Stony Brook study doesn’t account for certain characteristics of tumor growth, other specialists welcomed the new findings.
Great chart @UCSDCIM on risk factors for cancer. Lifestyle changes are more important than any others! @ACLifeMed pic.twitter.com/1Scg2IaKlI
— Ashwani Garg MD ॐ (@agargmd) February 26, 2016
Kevin McConway, a professor of applied statistics at the Open University, is convinced:
So is Paul Pharoah, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology, University of Cambridge:
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