Study claims 65% of cancers are caused by bad luck

Photo on 1-3-15 at 11.15 AM_1024

“Most Cancers Caused Mainly By ‘Bad Luck’ Mutations”

“Most cancer is beyond your control”

“Study concludes that many cancers caused by bad luck in cell division”

In the latest headlines circling the globe in this first week of 2015, media outlets are regurgitating the conclusion of a new study which claims that 2/3 of cancers are caused by the “bad luck” of random DNA mutations, and only 1/3 are caused by diet and lifestyle.

This is in direct contradiction to the American Association of Cancer Research which takes the position that 2/3 of cancers are preventable. (I think it’s 80-90%, especially in people under 70)

The researchers theorized that the organs and tissues in the body with the most stem cell divisions might be the most vulnerable to cancer.

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.

The other nine types, including colorectal cancer, basal cell carcinoma skin cancer, and smoking-related lung cancer, were more heavily influenced by heredity and environmental factors like risky behavior or exposure to carcinogens. Breast cancer and prostate cancer were not included in the study.

Here’s a nifty little chart someone put together.


“When someone gets cancer, immediately people want to know why,” said oncologist Dr. Bert Vogelstein of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, who conducted the study published in the journal Science with Johns Hopkins biomathematician Cristian Tomasetti.

“They like to believe there’s a reason. And the real reason in many cases is not because you didn’t behave well or were exposed to some bad environmental influence, it’s just because that person was unlucky. It’s losing the lottery.”

Tomasetti said harmful stem cell mutations occurred for “no particular reason other than randomness”.

Tomasetti said the study indicated that changing one’s lifestyle and habits like smoking to avoid cancer risks may help prevent certain cancers but may not be as effective for others.

“Thus, we should focus more research and resources on finding ways to detect such cancers at early, curable stages,” Tomasetti added.

Prescribing powerlessness

Yes friends, apparently bad luck is now a scientific phenomenon.
We no longer live in a cause and effect world, rather, one that is mostly governed by random chance and luck, which of course is how our infinitely precise and perfectly ordered universe was created right?

Bad luck is perhaps the most dangerous idea to permeate the cancer community because it renders the patient powerless. Nothing you did caused cancer, therefore nothing you can do will make any difference in healing it. Now you are completely dependent on early detection to prevent cancer, and if that doesn’t work, your only hope is surgery, chemo and radiation to save you. There’s no use in changing your diet or lifestyle. So go ahead and enjoy another supersized McRib combo meal.

This is an oncologists dream study and will be cited ad infinitum to cancer patients when they ask about nutrition and natural therapies, and changing their diet and lifestyle to promote healing.

Here are a few more things to consider.

Breast and prostate cancer, two of the top four most common cancers, weren’t even included in the study! That alone renders their “65% are bad luck” conclusion invalid. And I could just stop there, but no, there’s so much more.

This isn’t a lab study. It’s a study of other studies — essentially a mathematical calculation. The only thing they proved was that parts of the body with the most rapidly diving cells tend to be more prone to cancer. I’m not sure why that common sense idea is considered “groundbreaking”.

What I find so ridiculously mind-boggling is that these researchers don’t appear to be interested in finding out what is causing the gene mutations that lead to cancer, or how to prevent them.
They have taken the laziest position possible.

“Genes mutate. We don’t know why. Let’s call it bad luck.”

Except there is actually a field of science called epigenetics, which is the study of gene expression. Thanks to epigenetic research, we now know with absolute certainty that diet and exercise affect how your genes express themselves, literally turning good genes on and bad genes off.

Your choices matter!

There are literally hundreds of scientific studies, if not thousands, published over many decades which have laid a firm foundation on the prevention and reversal of cancer through diet and lifestyle changes. Here are just a few off the top of my head.

A 2007 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that breast cancer patients who exercised regularly (the equivalent of walking 30 minutes per day), and ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, had half the recurrence rate after nine years compared to patients who didn’t exercise or eat lots of fruits and veggies. A healthier diet and moderate exercise resulted in a 50% decrease in the recurrence rate of breast cancer. Now that’s what I call groundbreaking.

A 2014 study of over 4,600 Swedish men with early stage prostate cancer found that the men who engaged in walking or biking every day for 20 minutes or more had a 39% lower risk of dying from prostate cancer and a 30 percent lower risk of dying from any other cause, when compared to the men who were less active.

Another 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that colon cancer patients who exercised seven hours per week or more were 31% less likely to die from any cause than those who did not exercise at all. It also found that patients who averaged 5 hours of TV watching per day were 22% more likely to die than those who watched less than two hours per day.

For more anti-cancer nutritional science, check out the Cancer-Fighting Food category on my site.

Let’s get lucky 

Before jumping to the conclusion that cancer is mostly caused by bad luck, apparently the authors forgot that there are other countries on planet earth besides the United States, with very different cancer rates.

Cancer rates in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti are less than half that of the United States. So does that mean they are twice as lucky, or that we are twice as unlucky?

13 African nations, plus Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Indonesia, have cancer rates that are between 57-66% lower than the U.S. Are they 57-66% luckier?

The United Arab Emarates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, and Maldives have about 1/3 of the cancer rates of the U.S. Are they 66% luckier?

There are another 21 African nations with less than 1/3 of the cancer rates of the United States. Niger has 1/5th, but their starchy plant-based diet and physical activity has nothing to do with it. They must just be 80% luckier.

Article Sources:
World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer
Wall Street Journal
Business Insider

Update: More excellent critiques of the “bad luck” study (but I was the first!)

Cancer and Random Genes: Fortune Favors the Prepared by Dr. David Katz MD

Bad Luck, Bad Journalism and Cancer Rates by Bob O’Hara

Most Cancers not due to “Bad Luck” statement from the WHO IARC

Debunked: 2/3 of Cancer “Just Bad Luck” Dr Rhonda Patrick

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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Patti

    I am so grateful you have written this response, Chris. I found that i was so horrified, infuriated, and intimidated by the title of the article online, I couldn’t even bring myself read it.

    I hate that I have to take responsibility for my cancer and take appropriate action, and at the same time, I feel this taking responsibility is the most important first healing step we can take on so many levels of our lives…

    1. Robert

      Patti, be glad you educated yourself to take responsibility for your cancer. You and others like you (including myself) are doing far, far better than the poor folks who choose to embrace that pathetic article.

  2. Donna Pinto

    Excellent response Chris! Another factor not discussed here is the importance of the “AntiCancer Mind.” A fascinating study with rats proved how “Helplessness Feeds Cancer.” This is discussed in the book AntiCancer: A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber.

  3. Donna Pinto

    When I was given a diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) also known as “stage ZERO breast cancer and considered as “precancer” by 1/2 of medical doctors….I asked “is there anything I should do differently with my diet?” I was told NO, you didn’t cause this and there’s nothing you can do (except the very aggressive treatments of mastectomy or partial mastectomy plus 7 weeks of daily radiation.) Oh, and some xanax to help with anxiety. My story can be found here. I am celebrating 5 years of healthy vibrant toxic-free living and radical refusal of mammograms, radiation, mastectomy, tamoxifen and pharmaceuticals!

  4. Elainie

    I too was diagnosed with DCIS and refused conventional treatment. I was already a raw foodist at the time but needed to clean up some dental work and I utilized many different forms of detox and energy medicine to clear it up. That was nearly 9 years ago.
    Of course mainstream universities/big pharma etc; want us to think we are powerless, that’s their MO.

  5. Paula

    I thought scientist did not believe in luck? THEY only believe in empirical data? They believe in research, facts and statistics only. Well…good golly…if they are going to believe in luck…they might as well believe in Jesus Christ the healer now :)
    ps. radically changed my diet…exercise…got a counselor to help me forgive like you suggested…and even though I had grade 3 breast cancer; declined chemo….and almost 2 years later now I am still a survivor. Keep fighting the lies Chris…this isn’t about to do treatment or not to do treatment…this is about changing BEFORE you get the diagnosis!! you are saving lives..I am proud of you!

  6. Robert

    Chris, I am so glad that you addressed this garbage/article. However, to the people who want to indulge in health compromising diets and habits that in actuality leave them wide open to a host of detrimental health conditions, including cancer, this article lulls them into a belief that they do not have to take responsibility for their health. The U.S. is going to become a far sicker nation than what it is. And if the U.K. and other European nations embrace this garbage, they are on track to experience the same S A D outcome.

  7. Rusti

    :) I just replied to your email…”Thank you Chris. I thought it was me ;)) when I read about it. lol Wow what the “science” community will get away with now.”

    Congratulations Donna! I walked away from a biopsy 10 years ago. The small tumor could not be found 6 months later…I won’t succumb to conventional treatment either. So happy for you too!

  8. Fred Kahl

    Hi Chris
    I have been having hormone antagonist treatment, which has helped lower my very high psa level (prostate cancer).
    4 yrs on I am fairly healthy and have been experimenting with various diets. I have always taken exercise, and do things to reduce stress etc.

  9. Rebecca Cody

    Isn’t it amazing how much more unlucky we are in the US than we used to be? I mean, our cancer rates have multiplied so much in the last 100 years or so. I had no idea that was due to bad luck. Maybe I’ll move to one of the luckier countries!

    But then, maybe I have good luck. The last oncologist I met looked at my chart, then looked at me and said, “We don’t see many patients three years after your diagnosis.” This was for stage 3 triple negative breast cancer. That was almost two years ago, so I’m almost five years out from diagnosis.

    But did she show the least curiosity about WHY I was not only still alive, but thriving? Of course not! Well, it wasn’t because I swallowed the medical party line!

  10. Zyxomma

    Thanks for addressing this garbage passing itself off as a study, Chris. Any article on cancer that does not address a whole-food, plant-based diet, desisting from the use of cosmetics, home, and personal care products containing petro-chemicals, pthalates, and, most importantly, parabens, is, IMO, just more anti-science BS.

  11. Linda

    I read the same crazy article this morning at work.
    I think with all the exposure from Ty Bollinger’s The Truth About Cancer and Integrated Health International
    The Cure to Cancer Summit has made some organizations very nervous, hence they are grasping at straws. Tomasetti’s comments are ludicrous.
    “They like to believe there’s a reason. And the real reason in many cases is not because you didn’t behave well or were exposed to some bad environmental influence, it’s just because that person was unlucky. It’s losing the lottery.” Thus, we should focus more research and resources on finding ways to detect such cancers at early, curable stages,” Tomasetti added.
    This is one “LOTTERY TICKET” that should not be played!

  12. Chris Pedersen

    Thanks for bringing this article to our attention, Chris. It’s amazing the lack of science used by a system that would poopoo any alternative treatment as unscientific, especially diet.

    I have a genetic defect that causes colon cancer, but am able to suppress the expression of that cancer with diet, exercise, good sleep and positive attitude. Doctors could care less how I avoid the cancer. They wanted me to have my colon removed instead.

    IMO their solutions are barbaric (cut, burn or poison). And now a luck-factor to justify their “no questions asked” conveyor belt treatment. Pathetic.

  13. carolyn

    ah, the science of luck! how convenient

  14. T.J.

    There’s a bit of logical fallacy here – comparing the rates of countries like “13 African nations, plus Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Indonesia” is apples to oranges. The biggest difference in those countries to the US is not diet or lifestyle, it’s access to medicine. The rates are greater in the USA, *in part*, because we have the most modern detection and treatments available. Same with most other first-world countries.
    Don’t use the same bad logic the authors of the study use (which is great for a headline, and irrelevant and/or terrible for diagnosis and treatment of cancer). It’s a flawed study, or at least flawed conclusions. Let’s not extrapolate too much from it.
    FYI – take a look at cancer rates across the globe. Most 3rd world countries report less cancer rates than the US, Canada, the EU, and other 1st world countries:

  15. Jim

    What happened to all the comments? I left a couple but there were at least 7 others.

  16. Bill

    great article on denial. Focus research on how to detect cancer in it’s early stages? How about focus research on how to prevent it and obliterate it through nutrition and THEN how to EDUCATE people on this. It’s the more sensible approach and much more simple and healthy.

  17. Dani

    This is no laughing matter but I couldn’t help but chuckle when you were talking about other countries and nations being 57-66% “luckier” that us lol That just goes to show how ignorant the population is and how Big pharma/FDA has brainwashed everyone. Quite sad.

Comments are closed.