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Chalk most cancers up to bad luck, study says


When a person in Newark hears that they have been diagnosed with cancer, they may wonder, "why me?" Was it due to unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking? Was there a genetic component that predisposed them towards developing cancer? Unfortunately, one study reports that the most common cause of cancer is purely bad luck.

According to a recent study, random mutations that cause cancer are simply unavoidable. Each time that a normal cell splits into two, a few errors will naturally be made when it copies its DNA. If these mutations are not key parts of its DNA, they usually go by unnoticed. Unfortunately, sometimes these mutations affect a cancer driver gene, leading that person to develop the disease.

The study reports that 66 percent of all mutations are random. The environment causes approximately 29 percent of mutations, and only 5 percent of mutations can be tracked to one's heredity. For example, lung cancer can usually be linked to being exposed to tobacco smoke, that is, it has an environmental cause. However, most childhood cancers are not due to the environment nor are they hereditary. They're simply bad luck.

This may make sense as even those who take good care of their health and have no family history of the disease still develop cancer. No matter what its cause, however, once a person develops cancer the disease can affect every aspect of their lives, particularly if it is terminal. Needless to say, a person may eventually be unable to work due to the disease. When this happens, those with cancer may want to seek Social Security disability benefits to help them cope financially while they fight this disease.

Source: NPR, "Cancer Is Partly Caused By Bad Luck, Study Finds," Richard Harris, March 23, 2017

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