January 20, 2015 – Random Nature


Anchor lead:  If most of cancer is due to bad luck should we just give up now?  Elizabeth Tracey reports

Two-thirds of cancer cases are due to bad luck, a slew of recent headlines trumpeted after the publication of a Johns Hopkins study examining the role of chance in cancer development.  Not so fast, says Cristian Tomasetti, one of the study’s authors.  Bad luck, or randomness, doesn’t define anyone’s risk, and isn’t a basis for cancer risk reduction.

Tomasetti: The public health implication is on early detection but our work doesn’t imply at all that everything that we are doing today for primary prevention is not absolutely fundamental: vaccination, quitting smoking, altering our lifestyles- it’s absolutely key for the prevention of in fact, many of the most occurring types of cancers.  :26

Tomasetti predicts that some combination of molecular markers and imaging will help early cancer detection efforts and help whittle down the effect of chance.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.