Random DNA 'Mistakes' Cause Most Cancers
A new study in the journal Science finds that most cancers are not caused by heredity or environmental factors, but by random errors or mistakes in DNA. In fact, while many scientists have long held that inherited mutations or damage from smoking or exposure to toxins were behind most cancers, the new study suggests that as many as two-thirds of cancer cases are the result of random and often tiny mistakes in DNA.
The unfathomably large number of times cells in the body divide and replicate their DNA, so that each new cell has its own copy of genetic material, provides endless opportunities for a DNA error. In that scenario, cancer "will occur no matter how perfect the environment," noted Dr. Bert Vogelstein, a pathologist at Johns Hopkins University and senior study author.
The percentage of specific cancers caused by random mistakes appears to vary widely, however, according to the researchers. More than 95 percent of brain and prostate cancers, for instance, appear to be caused by random mistakes, while random mistakes caused just 35 percent of lung cancers cited in the study.
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