It is most likely just bad luck that we got CLL

It is most likely just bad luck that we got CLL

Don't beat yourself up for what you may have done to give yourself CLL. An analysis of scientific papers by Johns Hopkins University researchers published in the journal Science, concludes that in two thirds of cases, including leukaemia, human cancers are due to randomly generated DNA errors and not from hereditary or environmental causes. The research looked at the division rates of different tissue stem cells and found that cancer development in 22 of 31 different tissue types, can be blamed on random mutations in DNA occurring during stem-cell division.

From the Wall Street Journal "The researchers, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, analyzed published scientific papers to identify the number of stem cells, and the rate of stem-cell division, among 31 tissue types, though not for breast and prostate tissue, which they excluded from the analysis. Then they compared the total number of lifetime stem-cell divisions in each tissue against a person's lifetime risk of developing cancer in that tissue in the U.S.." The correlation between these parameters suggests that two-thirds of the difference in cancer risk among various tissue types can be blamed on random, or 'stochastic,' mutations in DNA occurring during stem-cell division, and only one-third on hereditary or environmental factors like smoking, the researchers conclude. 'Thus, the stochastic effects of DNA replication appear to be the major contributor to cancer in humans.'"

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reports: "The researchers said on Thursday random DNA mutations accumulating in various parts of the body during ordinary cell division are the prime culprits behind many cancer types. They looked at 31 cancer types and found that 22 of them, including leukemia and pancreatic, bone, testicular, ovarian and brain cancer, could be explained largely by these random mutations — essentially biological bad luck. The other nine types, including colorectal cancer, skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma and smoking-related lung cancer, were more heavily influenced by heredity and environmental factors like risky behavior or exposure to carcinogens. Overall, they attributed 65 percent of cancer incidence to random mutations in genes that can drive cancer growth."




Photo: Spiny Cheeked Honeyeater

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10 Replies

  • This is incredibly reassuring! Thank you.

  • Ha !!! just my luck......if I didn't have bad luck I'd have no luck at all lol

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  • I thought CLL/SLL was a lymphoma :-) ... monoclonal, not stem cells for the most part...not sure this applies but it may, but certainly shortened telomeres and millions of epigenetic changes are involved... so bad luck could certainly play a role...

    CLL/SLL also has a fairly high heredity factor... perhaps some inherit their parents or grand parents bad luck?

    There was a single catastrophic event theory in CLL/SLL, a few years ago that created a stir in the research community.... not sure where that stands...

    The original article in The Scientist

    Study... behind a paywall :-(

  • Sounds like well funded findings. The kind of findings you would expect from, say a tobacco company, or a chemical company trying to distance themselves from responsibility for their role in our conditions. Remember everyone, tobacco companies in the US were able to produce similar scientific evidence that cigarettes don't harm you. This appears to be corporately funded BS.

  • Hi Paul,

    Obviously a case can be made for inherited vulnerabilities leading to cancer but having been born into a family with no blood cancer on either side and only one solid cancer with my father in his mid eighties, I am a good statistic to support having been given cancer by agent orange exposure in Viet-Nam. BTW - My Dad always pooh-poohed the cancer connection between cigarettes and lung cancer having smoked up to four packs a day, switching to pipe in his 70s. He died of bladder cancer at a time before the evidence established a link between bladder cancer and smoking.

    The big gap in knowledge is what genetic/epigenetic vulnerabilities can be most likely linked to which carcinogens - mostly man made?


  • Then again... may not be bad luck...

    The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization's specialized cancer agency, put out a press release to say that it "strongly disagrees with the conclusion," and warning that the message could harm cancer research and public health.


  • Thanks for adding that reference Chris. Seems the study has stirred up the cancer research community. With regard to CLL and environmental causes, there's not much we can do if we can't identify an environmental trigger that may cause CLL...

    But here's the best quote:

    'P.Z. Myers, PhD, a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, told the BBC: "What's important about the study is that it does say that if you have cancer — and I think this is something people who have cancer would like to hear — it's not something you should blame yourself for."'


  • I found a link on to a Science Magazine article by a reporter who graciously examined her own reporting on the study, and her subsequent followup to get clarifications from one of the authors of the study:

    Here's the Science Magazine followup link:

    I'm liking what I see at Health News Review so far.


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