The time-tested advice that avoiding smoking, prolong exposure to toxic chemicals and the sun could prevent cancer continually seems to be just components or part of the factors that may cause cancer as most of us may have met acquaintances or read about people who do not smoke for example, but contracted lung cancer.
Several people may agree or disagree with this report published by Times Magazine based on an exclusive interview with experts from John Hopkin University, Dr. Christian Tomaseti and Bert Vogelstein, in which it was explained that a cancerous tumor can just happen by chance or randomly even if a person completely avoids risky behavior that would ordinary predispose him or her to having cancer. It was also mentioned that although heredity plays a factor in contracting cancer, however, that only explains about 5% to 10% of cancer cases. This may help affirm the hunch of many who have witnessed a person who has been smoking for their whole life but still did not contract lung cancer, however, it is still subject to debate.
Both medical experts, Christian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein, who believe to have found a new factor that has the possibility of changing the way cancer is diagnosed and treated claim that the tissue stem cells in our body may explain up to two-thirds of the difference in cancer risk among different tissues. When old cells die, stem cells will churn out new ones to replace the old cells and there is always a likelihood of mistake in the replication process. This mistake then leads to the creation of malignant cells.
According to the report “Many tissues in the body have stem cells that serve as factories for churning out more cells of the same kind; it’s what keeps our skin cells refreshed, and our blood and immune cells young and vigorous. This replicative power is the engine that keeps the body going, allowing tissues to replace cells as they die off. But it’s also the process behind cancer, since cancer is caused by cells that pick up mutations in their DNA when they divide — and stem cells are the only population that copy their DNA and divide to make more cells. Only a small proportion of a tissue’s cells are made up of stem cells.”
Also, when Tomasetti and Vogelstein mapped out a scenario to determine whether the number of stem cells in a specific tissue has any relationship with its tendency to develop cancer, the observation below was reported:
“Indeed, when they charted out the stem cell data for 31 types of tissues, they found a dramatic connection between the two — the more stem cells the tissue had, the higher its incidence of cancer over a person’s life time on average.”
Additionally, Tomasetti, a biostatistician at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health provided an illustration of cancer risks in layman terms to further drive in the message being passed acrossed: “Think of cancer as the risk of having an accident if you are driving a car,”…”if you drive the car on a cross country trip, your risk of an accident is much higher than if you take a local trip to the grocery store. The risk correlates to the length of the trip. The trip to the grocery store might be thought of as bone cancer, which has few stem cell divisions. While the cross country trip might be more like colon cancer, which has many more cell divisions.”
It was also reported that there was a strong correlation between cancers that were both common and rare, as the more probable a cell would replicate and develop DNA errors or mutations in the process, the higher the probability that the tissue would develop tumors.
Finally, the overall take away from this study is that it’s time to reconsider and redirect the current cancer diagnosis and treatment strategy a little bit and not abandon it entirely.
Tomasetti and Vogelstein’s proposal regarding reviewing cancer cases going forward is in two categories: “Those that are primarily due to genetic bad luck, and those that are due to that unfortunate roll of the genetic dice plus environmental or hereditary factors. So melanoma, ovarian cancer, many brain cancers, lung cancer among non-smokers, the most common leukemias and bone cancers, for example, are pretty much out of people’s control. They’re the result of the random mutations caused by the stem cells dividing in these tissues — bone, blood, ovaries, brain and skin — that make mistakes that turn malignant. For these cancers, changing your lifestyle or trying other interventions to stop the cancer from occurring in the first place won’t help. But being vigilant about screening, and picking up the first signs of trouble early, can be life saving.”
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