Lifestyle factors, not random cell mutations, to blame for most cancers, claims study

Lifestyle factors, not random cell mutations, to blame for most cancers, claims study

Defying an earlier research that blamed random cell mutations for the development of cancerous tumours, scientists in a new study have suggested that up to nine in 10 cancers are a fallout of factors such as smoking, drinking, sun exposure and air pollution.

Conducted by scientists at Stony Brook University in New York, the study suggests that environmental and external factors play a much greater role in cancer incidence than simple mutations in cell division. The researchers say as such, several cancers may be more preventable than previously thought.

The finding may generate a lot of debate as it suggests that mere lifestyle changes, including staying away from the sun, minimizing the use or giving up cigarettes and following a strict exercise regimen, could considerably cut down the risk of developing cancer.

A controversy is more likely to erupt as a study published earlier this year had suggested that up to 65% of the cancers occurred due to random mistakes in cell division, thus signifying that these were not in our control.

Supporting the latest finding, a British researcher even went to the extent of saying that up to 90% of the cancers would not occur if the lifestyle suggestions were followed religiously.

Yusuf Hannun, who was part of the study, said: “Here we provide evidence that intrinsic risk factors contribute only modestly to cancer development. The rates of mutation accumulation by intrinsic processes are not sufficient to account for the observed cancer risks”.

The research claims that around 75% of the risk of colorectal cancer was now believed to be due to diet. Similarly, 75% skin cancer cases are to be blamed on exposure to sun while head and neck cancers could be due to tobacco and alcohol.

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