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Cancer: Bad Luck or Punishment?

A. V. Lichtenstein

Blokhin Cancer Research Center, Institute of Carcinogenesis, 115478 Moscow, Russia; E-mail: alicht@mail.ru

Received June 30, 2016; Revision received July 16, 2016
Contrasting opinions on the role of extrinsic and intrinsic factors in cancer etiology (Tomasetti, C., and Vogelstein, B. (2015) Science, 347, 78-81; Wu, S., et al. (2016) Nature, 529, 43-47) variously define priorities in the war on cancer. The correlation between the lifetime risk of several types of cancer and the total number of divisions of normal self-renewing cells revealed by the authors has given them grounds to put forward the “bad luck” hypothesis. It assumes that ~70% of cancer variability is attributed to random errors arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells, i.e. to internal factors, which is impossible either to expect or to prevent. This assumption caused many critical responses that emphasize, on the contrary, the defining role of extrinsic factors in cancer etiology. The analysis of epidemiological and genetic data presented in this work testifies in favor of the “bad luck” hypothesis.
KEY WORDS: cancer, bad luck hypothesis, carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, extrinsic and intrinsic causes of cancer, cancer prevention

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297917010084