Cancers are mainly related to “preventable” risk factors.

The incidence of cancer increases considerably with age, most likely due to the increasing accumulation of associated risk factors, along with the loss of efficiency of cell regeneration processes. Smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and air pollution are among the main risk factors, to which are sometimes added genetic factors.

As a result, a large proportion of cancers could be prevented by adopting a better lifestyle. To find out if it is really possible to control the development of cancer, researchers have tried to accurately determine the sources of the mutations responsible for the transformation of tissues into tumors. Their results have just been published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Cancers “more controllable” than others

It is known that some of the most common cancers can be prevented with a simple change in behavior. For example, skin cancers can be prevented by limiting exposure to ultraviolet rays, while the risk of developing lung cancer can be greatly reduced by opting not to smoke. That said, scientists have never assessed what part of the responsibility these preventable behaviors had in the onset of cancer, especially in relation to other uncontrollable factors, such as aging or even chance.

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However, research has predicted how specific factors that cause mutations alter the genome of tissues (to cause them to evolve into tumors). Based on this knowledge, and thanks to a new molecular analysis technique, Professor Jeffrey Townsend and colleagues at Yale have been able to quantify the share of responsibility for each known (and unknown) factor in the emergence of the cancer. ” This is the last piece of the puzzle that links genome editions to cancer Townsend said in a statement.

Not surprisingly, his study shows that some cancers are more “controllable” than others. In particular, genetic mutation analysis revealed that exposure to UV rays was responsible for tumor growth in most cases of melanoma, the researchers report. Also, avoidable factors explain much of the formation of bladder tumors. In contrast, prostate cancers and gliomas (brain tumors) are caused more by endogenous processes associated with aging.

The team clarifies that preventable mutations associated with pathogen exposure and the activity of the enzyme released by apolipoprotein B (or APOBEC) mRNA, which, when poorly regulated, is a major source of mutations in many types of cancers, explaining much of the carcinogenic effect. in the case of cancers of the head and neck, bladder, cervix and breast. Please note that APOBEC activity is associated with exposure to viruses, so it is considered preventable.

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An analysis that could guide public health authorities

This research, however, is limited: it does not include all the genetic modifications identified as the origin of the tumors. In addition, new factors are emerging that promote tumor growth as cancer research progresses; the analysis proposed by Townsend and his team is therefore largely non-exhaustive. They also point out that their method has not been tested in less common cancers.

These early results, on the other hand, could help public health authorities quickly identify the sources of cancer before they cause more victims. ” A public health intervention to minimize exposure to these preventable signatures would mitigate the severity of the disease by preventing the buildup of mutations that directly contribute to the cancer phenotype. write the study authors.

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Townsend, for example, suggests using this analysis to analyze local populations or occupational groups that have an abnormally high number of cancers, which could indicate exposure to carcinogens. ” Catch the proportion of factors could expose the underlying causes that caused the tumor to grow “, explains the teacher.

In addition, it may be beneficial to inform patients who are ill and in remission of the possible causes of their illness: eliminating the controllable factors involved can only promote healing and reduce the risk of recurrence.

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