Random DNA errors responsible for two-thirds of cancer mutations, study says

Gene testing for cancer research

Image Caption The £1.5m funding has been made available by Children with Cancer UK

WHAT causes cancer? A new study published recently suggests that cells make random mistakes while dividing, accounting for most of the mutations in tumors, rather than family history or environmental factors.

Such mistakes are "a potent source of cancer mutations that historically have been scientifically undervalued", Dr Tomasetti said in a statement.

According to the study, every time cells divide, little mistakes in the copies of its DNA form. For the most part, these mutations occur in unimportant parts of the DNA.

After two or three of these driver genes get mutated in the same cell, they can transform that healthy cell into a cancer cell.

In the case of pancreatic cancer, 77 per cent of cancerous cells are due to random DNA copying errors, 18 per cent are environmental factors and 5 per cent are inherited. Hereditary factors are responsible for the remaining five percent.

Tomasetti and Vogelstein's 2015 study created vigorous debate from scientists who argued that their previously published analysis did not include breast or prostate cancers, and it reflected only cancer incidence in the United States. The new study identifies a new cause that is beyond a person's avoidance. As senior author of the study, he stated that cancer could happen regardless of a flawless environment.

New research revises the most common understanding of cancer and its causes, while also serving as a telling reminder to evolutionists. They concluded that stem cell division rates in an organ correlated to the frequency with which cancers developed in the area. They compared total numbers of stem cell divisions with cancer incidence data collected by the International Agency for Research on Cancer on 423 registries of cancer patients from 68 countries other than the USA, representing 4.8 billion people, or more than half of the world's population. But only 0.2 percent of people get cancer of the small intestine, where cells divide fare less frequently.


Generally, more damages are caused by what is referred to as environmental factors. "But the difference in cancer rates in different tissues can still be the result of different underlying rates of cell division". "Geneticist Bert Vogelstein and mathematician Cristian Tomasetti, at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, conducted the study, a follow-up to an earlier one, which arrived at the same conclusion", said a report in Science.

According to the World Health Organization, a third risk factor is alcohol, which is estimated to be responsible for more than 300,00 cancer deaths yearly.

Then there are those random copy errors in cells - what Vogelstein calls our baseline rate of genetic mutations that will occur no matter how healthy we live.

The medical director of the Cancer Society, Chris Jackson, said the research was groundbreaking - but still meant up to 40 percent of cancers were caused by environmental factors.

Despite the improvements to their methods, the team's recent findings have already been subjected to criticism. Dr.

In the new study, the researchers addressed a different question: What fraction of mutations in cancer are due to these DNA copying errors? He adds that about 42% of cancers are preventable according to epidemiological studies, and his results don't contradict that finding - because his work looks at the number of cancer-causing mutations, which typically need to add up to create the disease, the numbers aren't "directly comparable", he explains.

In addition to Tomasetti and Vogelstein, Lu Li, a doctoral student in Tomasetti's laboratory in the Department of Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, also contributed to the research.

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