Most cancers are down to environmental factors

Most cancers are down to environmental factors

Although recent research by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine suggested that two-thirds of cancer diagnoses are just "bad luck", a new study has indicated that the vast majority of cancers are down to environmental factors.

The new research, published in the journal Nature, suggests that the disease is overwhelmingly a result of environmental factors and not largely down to bad luck.

A team from Stony Brook Cancer Center in New York used computer modelling, genetic information and population statistics to reach their findings, which stated that only a small number of cancers can be attributed to "luck".

According to the amalgamation of the different approaches used by the researchers, between ten and 30 per cent of all cancers are the result of bad luck. 

Cancer, which is the result of stem cells multiplying erratically, can be caused by either intrinsic factors that determine how the body operates - such as a mutation when a cell divides - or extrinsic factors, such as smoking or UV radiation.

For many years, there has been a lot of debate around the importance of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. According to the latest analysis, the team estimate that between 70 and 90 per cent of all cancers are the result of extrinsic factors.

Kevin McConway, a professor of applied statistics at the Open University, said the research provides "pretty convincing evidence" that external factors play a major role in many cancers, including some of the most common.

However, he added that even if someone is exposed to an important external risk factor, it doesn't always mean they will develop cancer, but that there is a chance.

"But this study demonstrates again that we have to look well beyond pure chance and luck to understand and protect against cancers," Mr McConway explained.

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