A person who sticks to a healthy lifestyle — doesn't smoke, doesn't eat processed foods, stays fit with regular workouts, steers clear from carcinogens — and who has no known family history of the disease can get the big C.

But why?

66 Percent Of Cancers Due To DNA Errors

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center shed light on this topic with their new study suggesting that random, unpredictable DNA copying errors account for nearly 66 percent, or at least two-thirds, of the mutations that cause cancer. It also found that 29 percent is due to environmental factors or lifestyle, and 5 percent is due to hereditary DNA mutations.

The study used a novel mathematical model based on DNA sequencing and worldwide epidemiologic data. According to researchers, their findings back up the theory of an earlier Cancer Research UK study saying that 42 percent of cancers can be avoided with a healthy lifestyle.

"It is well-known that we must avoid environmental factors such as smoking to decrease our risk of getting cancer. But it is not as well-known that each time a normal cell divides and copies its DNA to produce two new cells, it makes multiple mistakes," Cristian Tomasetti, Ph.D., one of the study's authors, said.

Brain Cancer And Prostate Cancer

Brain and prostate cancer are the two types of cancer that are found largely attributable to random DNA mistakes. This was seen in over 95 percent of the cases examined by the researchers.

Environmental factors still played a huge role in other forms of cancer, such as lung cancer. In the study, it caused 65 percent of lung cancer cases, leaving the remaining 35 percent to DNA copying errors.

No Mutation Can Be Avoided

"Even if, as this study suggests, most individual cancer mutations are due to random chance, the researchers admit that the cancers they cause may still be preventable," Professor Mel Greaves, director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at The Institute of Cancer Research in London, said.

Dr. Bert Vogelstein, a coauthor of the study, said that adhering to a healthy lifestyle and staying away from carcinogens is still imperative to lower one's risk for cancer mutation.

While it is true that no mutation can be avoided and that cancer can happen even in a perfect environment, Dr. Vogelstein believes that early detection should be the ultimate focus.

The latest cancer study was published on March 24 in the journal Science.

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