Cause of Cancer – ‘Random unfortunate event’ or ‘ Bad luck’

Parikh is a chartered account and accidentally found a mass. On MRI a ‘tumour’ was found and then the panic set in.

How did I get this? Why ME ???  Whats’s cause? I never smoke or drink and am a vegetarian too !!

Most of the patients invariably ask the question “How did I get Cancer?”

I normally tell them that the cause is really unknown except in those associated with lifestyles like smoking.

It’s a ‘random unfortunate event’.

The fact is that the human cells, a trillion of them, keep dividing and a complex DNA is faithfully replicated. Well this is a super precise process, but even a ‘cell’ can make errors and some of the genes or rather the codon in the ‘genes’ can be ‘bad’. The cell also has remarkable ability of having a system of ‘miss match repair genes’ which will either fix the problems or eliminate bad genes. However some of the changes can occur in critical parts of the DNA , near the oncogenes, which actually trigger uncontrolled growth and replication of cells that is ‘Cancer’.

It is interesting to read Bert Vogelstein’s’s article in the media. Porf. Vogelstein is famous scientist from John Hopkins’ University and was the first to identify that specific genetic changes lead to progressive development of colon cancer. But you may be surprised that the whole process may even take 10 years.

Now they have come out with important information that about 22 such genetic mutations cause 2/3rd of the cancers. Even in 2/3rd where there is genetic mutation, Environment and lifestyles are likely to enhance the ‘bad luck mutation’. The other 1/3rd of cancers are directly related to lifestyle factors like smoking.

What do we then do about the ‘bad luck or the bolt from the blue’ genetic mutation. Very few of them are hereditary and can be detected in families that have clusters of cancers like colon or breast cancer but many of them are again ‘random unfortunate events’. The really cost effective way is early detection.

I had in my earlier blog talked about the 7 warning signals and I once again reiterate that these should be your guide for the New Year!

Take care of your precious health

Enjoy a healthy life !