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The Science of Health: Silent Spring Inst. Cautions Against New Cancer Study

A ground breaking new study on cancer has concluded that a majority of cancers are the result of sheer bad luck. Two researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Cristian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein, searched the scientific literature on stem cell mutations based on the conclusion that when “random mistakes in tissue specific stem cells,” accumulate, cancers arise that are unrelated to either genetic or environmental factors. The study found that 22 cancer types are mostly the result of sheer bad luck. Nine other cancer types were the result of a combination of factors that included lifestyle and environmental triggers, genes, and bad luck.

According to Vogelstein, “We found that the types of cancer that had higher risk than predicted by the number of stem cell divisions were precisely the ones you’d expect, including lung cancer, which is linked to smoking; skin cancer, linked to sun exposure; and forms of cancers associated with hereditary syndromes.”

So, for example, when non-smokers develop lung cancer, it is simply their bad luck. Conversely when life-long smokers do NOT get lung cancer, it isn’t not because of their “good genes,” protecting them, but more likely their good luck. Smoking increases the likelihood that your luck will run out, but not much as much as was previously thought. It should be noted that breast, prostate, and several other cancers were not included in the study because of lack of stem cell data.

GUEST: Dr. Julia Brody, Executive Director of the Silent Spring Institute.

For more information, visit silentspring.org