Random mutations are the single biggest factor in causing cancer, researchers reaffirmed Thursday.
About two-thirds of the genetic mutations that lead to cancer happen simply because of random errors made as cells divide and not because of diet, chemicals or inherited genes, the team at Johns Hopkins University said.
“We hope that this research offers comfort to the literally millions of patients who have had cancer but who have lived nearly perfect lifestyle — who have never smoked, who have avoided the sun … who exercise regularly,” Dr. Bert Vogelstein of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center told a news conference.
“It’s not your fault. Nothing you did or didn’t do was responsible for your illness.”
And Vogelstein says he really wants to reassure parents whose children get cancer. Most childhood cancer is caused by random mutations, he said.
“They need to understand that these cancers would have occurred no matter what they did. We don’t need to add guilt to an already tragic situation.”
More importantly, it means everyone needs to be screened for cancer when possible even if they think they’re at low risk because of family history and their own healthy habits, Vogelstein said, because their findings mean everyone’s at risk of cancer, the No. 2 killer in the United States.