Research shows what causes up to 90 percent of cancer 52



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Do you ever find yourself worried about what caused a loved one’s cancer or perhaps your own and want to get to the bottom of whether it might have been physiological or derived from external environmental risks?

New research out this week has shown that 70 to 90 percent of cancers are caused by environmental factors in a frightening turnaround from research tabled earlier in 2015 that pointed to genetic factors.

A team of researchers from Stony Brook University, New York, led by Yusuf Hannun, MD, the Joel Strum Kenny Professor in Cancer Research and Director of the Stony Brook University Cancer Center, have found quantitative evidence proving that extrinsic risk factors, such as environmental exposures and behaviours weigh heavily on the development of a vast majority (approximately 70 to 90 percent) of cancers. The finding, reported in the December 16 online issue of Nature, in a paper titled “Substantial contribution of extrinsic risk factors to cancer development,” may be important for strategising cancer prevention, research and public health.

Inspired by a January 2015 research paper in Science, which concluded that the majority of the variation in cancer risk among tissues is due to “bad luck,” the Stony Brook team used the same data to assess what leads to the risk of developing cancer. And this team of scientists concluded the opposite – that most cancers are the result of external risk factors not because of internal or intrinsic factors of “bad luck”.

The scientists undertaking the study developed four distinct approaches to assess cancer risk. With these four approaches, they discovered collectively and individually that most cancers are attributed largely to external risk factors, with only 10-to-30 percent attributed to random mutations, or intrinsic factors.

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. My smoking habit has come back to haunt me! 🙁 Stopped 9 years ago, but still doesn’t matter!

    4 REPLY
    • According to my doctor, once a smoker, the risk is always there no matter how long since you gave it up. A bit sad really as there are plenty of non-smokers who get lung cancer

    • I stopped 30 years ago & have just been diagnosed with lung cancer, I have my father, brother & a cousin also died of this.

    • Exactly Phyllis. My daughter’s mother in law had a lung removed because of lung cancer but has never smoked in her life.

  2. I’m more concerned for our children’s and our grandchildren’s future….more chemicals now in our products, mobile phones, time in front of computers….etc.

  3. Ok but what extrinsic factors?

    1 REPLY
    • A number of cancers share risk factors:

      1. one in nine cancers, and one in five cancer deaths, are due to smoking
      2. about 3% of cancers are related to alcohol consumption
      3. many cancers occur as a direct result of dietary influences, from infectious agents or exposure to radiation (especially skin cancers from ultraviolet radiation)
      4. some cancers result from inherited ‘faulty’ genes

      It is important to note that not all cancers are associated to the risk factors mentioned above. Cancer can sometimes develop without any specific causes.

  4. Mike here-I’m more a believer in environmental risk than genetics, diesel exhaust is one of th most carcinogenic substances & I’ve operated heavy plant most of my working life, my mother died of lung cancer but never smoked nor would she even touch my fathers ashtrays. Father smoked all his life (died at 53) emphysema topped him. I stopped smoking (60 a day) at 49 yrs, 66 now still no signs, thankfully.

  5. And if we spend our lives worrying over every little thing we will not enjoy the time we have. Yes…stop smoking…heart disease and cancer….etc BUT we can’t change most things in our environment…we dont live in a bubble….we live!

  6. The fact that these two reports used the same data tells the real story. We all know you cant fight genetics – you are who and what you are based on your own inherited physical make-up, so of course the “bad luck” theory holds true. We all also know of the burgeoning growth in environmental risk factors – chemicals etc etc and the increased knowledge base in their cancer causing potential. The real story as I interpate it is that if you are geneticly prone to cancer (or something) you might get it (or you might not) – if you are exposed to external cancer causing agents you might get cancer (or you might not) and if you are geneticly prone as well as exposed to cancer causing agents, your chances of getting cancer are increased. That to me is the real story, its not as simple as one or the other.

  7. Most cancers are caused by worrying about getting cancer.It’s a Psychosomatic thing. if you worry enough about it, you will get it.
    If you worry about a heart attack you will have one. I don’t worry about anything so I’ll probably live forever. Hmmm! now that’s a worry.

  8. My father always worried about dying of cancer. Instead he died at 56 of a heart attack which really could have been prevented had he gone to see a doctor. There is no doubt that there are cancers which can be attributed to our time spent in the sun as young ones with no protection whatsoever. My brother, 70 years of age, is starting to pay the price for that. My daughter’s mother-in-law has lung cancer (never smoked a day in her life) which has metastasized and she was told in her case it was just bad luck.

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