March 28, 2017 – Cancer Numbers


Anchor lead: What percentage of common cancers are due to random mutations? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Randomly acquired mutations in DNA account for the majority of cancer, a striking new Johns Hopkins study published in Science by Bert Vogelstein and Cristian Tomasetti shows. Tomasetti reveals some of the numbers.

Tomasetti: In lung cancer, where it’s very well known the effect of smoking, and other environmental factors, we estimate that 65% of the mutations are due in fact to environmental and lifestyle factors. About 35% of the mutations are due to random mutations. If we look at cancer types like pancreatic cancer in that case we estimate that 77% is due in fact to random mutations. :30

Tomasetti says heredity plays a very small role in the total number of cancers, about 5%. He says that most people can now stop feeling guilty that somehow they’ve caused their disease since so many cancers arise by this random mutation mechanism. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.