A team of Researchers at John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center reaffirmed their earlier findings that random mutations are the single largest factor in causing cancer. Dr. Bert Vogelstein and his colleague Dr. Chistian Tomasetti caused an outcry back in 2015 when they first reported their study and argued that their findings got misreported. However, they went back to double-check and add more research and now stand my their latest results.

The randomness of cancer

The researchers at John Hopkins stated in their report that around two-thirds of the genetic mutations in the 32 different types of cancer happen due to random errors made when cells divide and not due to other factors like lifestyle or inherited genes.

The report also stated that most cancers in children got caused by these random errors made by cells. This is also why older people are more likely to get the disease, as their cells become less effective with age. The most random types are pediatric cancers and brain tumors. In contrast, common types of cancer, like lung cancer were found to have a huge environmental factor. The researchers emphasized, however, that they were not saying that two-thirds of cancer cases are due to these random mutations, but that two-thirds of mutations in cancer were because of these random mutations.

Three basic causes of cancer

The researchers also based their study around three basic causes of cancer. Some mutations occur when cells divide incorrectly, which causes mutations and accounts for about two-thirds (66%) of cancer.

Inherited genetic mutations, like BRCA genes, account for about 5% of cancer. Finally, there are mutations caused by various environmental factors, such as diet, sun exposure, smoking, exercise and chemical exposure. These accounted for about 29% of cancer.

Screening for cancer

Dr. Vogelstein also iterated that everyone should be screened for cancer when it is possible due to these findings since it means that everyone is at risk for cancer at any time.

Since most cancers are due to random errors, even people who have a low risk due to family history or live a very healthy lifestyle could get cancer. It is of particular importance since the disease is the second leading killer in the United States, only behind heart disease.