The research, carried out by scientists at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge and St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in the United States, shows that cancers are more likely to start in stem cells — special cells that copy themselves so the body can grow new cells, repair damaged tissue and replace old cells.
But while these stem cells are more susceptible to developing into cancer, they also need to have accumulated DNA mistakes and be replicating to repair damage or wear and tear for cancers to start.
These DNA mistakes can happen randomly as stem cells replicate and they tend to build up with age, which is why cancer gets more common as we get older. They can also be caused by things in our environment such as tobacco smoke or UV radiation.
To find out how cancers start in different organs the researchers tagged one particular group of cells in mice with a fluorescent dye to track their behavior. They then introduced DNA mistakes linked to different types of cancers into these cells.
Importantly, they found that DNA mistakes by themselves were not enough to cause cancer. In organs where DNA mistakes were introduced into dormant stem cells, there were no signs of cancer
Dr. Stegall’s Comments: I will continue saying it until it becomes widely known: cancer is a metabolic disease! Genetics are only thought to play a major role in about 5% of cancers, and even in those situations, other triggers are needed for cancer to develop. The overwhelming majority of cancers are metabolic, meaning that the cellular processes involved in creating energy are damaged. This damage typically comes from decades of exposure to harmful chemicals, toxins, and stressors. Some scientists have even stated that cancer is a man-made disease, because cancer used to be very rare.