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Mar 27, 2017 11:32 AM EDT

John Hopkins University Study Reveal How Cancer Is An Error In The DNA

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It has been a long-held belief for many years that cancer is inherited or is caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. However, a new study was conducted by scientists from John Hopkins University and it revealed that cancer is as random as random can get.

Mathematician Christian Tomasetti and geneticist Bert Vogelstein at the John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center conducted a follow-up on a study they did two years ago. Both of these studies have the same conclusion - that a majority of cancer types is a case of bad luck. To make it more simple, they are unavoidable - a case of an error of DNA mutations.

Vogelstein explained that when perfectly normal cells divide, they make an error in the copies they make, which is a natural occurrence. However, the problem begins when these mutations affect cancer driver genes. Just two or three cancer driver genes mutating in the same cell, it can corrupt healthy cells.

With the help of mathematics, Vogelstein and Tomasetti were able identify how often these random mutations occur. And as the findings indicated, 66 percent of cancers are caused by chance, 29 percent are caused by the environment, and 5 percent are hereditary in nature.

The geneticist say that the discovery brings a new light to how cancer should be dealt with. Volgetti said that there is an overemphasis on environmental factors as the source of cancer. Using a metaphor, he likened mutations as enemies which doctors and scientists thought to be outside the borders. If such is the case, then it is easier to combat these enemies. However, these mutations or enemies are inside which calls for a different strategy.

Critics, however, argue that Vogelstein and Tomasetti failed to include how hormones influence cancer. Dr. Graham Colditz, an epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis said that although the duo were able to categorize cancer, the interconnections of these processes are still very complex.

Vogelstein agrees with that observation and said that their findings are not the only basis of identifying how serious a type of cancer is but that they are necessary elements in getting cancer.

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