The purpose of this blog is purely educational. It does not advise any reader to forgo medical treatment for any condition. It describes methods that have not yet been proven effective through widespread scientific testing. Readers who are concerned about their health are advised to contact their physician.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Most cancer caused by "bad luck"?

Recently there was a spate of headlines in the mainstream news media trumpeting a new study that claimed that most cancer was caused by "bad luck" rather than genetics or poor lifestyle. This came as very disheartening news to anyone trying to use diet, exercise, and supplementation to decrease their chances of developing cancer. But the headlines need elaboration, because once again the mainstream media overlooked some important details in their eagerness to deliver a sensational story.

The study was in fact a statistical exercise, measuring cancer incidence in various tissue types. It was found that the more often cells divided in a particular tissue, the greater the likelihood was that something might go wrong and result in cancer. The study authors have now pointed out that the correlation is comparable to the greater likelihood of getting into an accident on a long road trip than a short one by virtue of spending more time in the car. They insist that to say that most cancer is a result of "bad luck" is to misunderstand their findings. In their statement they write "We want to stress that cancer is caused by a combination of many factors." (For more detail, read the article on

It is simply common sense that the more a cell divides, the greater the chances are that something might go awry. That is why the longer a person lives, the more likely they are statistically to develop cancer. But if you read George Johnson's Cancer Chronicles, you'll came away surprised at how many things have to derail before cancer actually takes hold. There has to be a cascade of things that go wrong, and at each juncture the body has defense mechanisms at its disposal. It also makes sense that the healthier the body is, and the stronger those defense mechanisms are, the more it will be able to overcome the effects of "bad luck" cell divisions. So rather than feel helpless and disheartened by the headlines and reach for a second piece of chocolate cake because "doctors say that lifestyle doesn't matter," just keep carrying on with the healthy diet and the exercise.

Here is Chris Wark's take on the "most cancer is bad luck" hype in his blog, Chris Beat Cancer.