‘Cancer risk more than just bad luck’

‘Cancer risk more than just bad luck’

Researchers of the UMC Utrecht and the Hubrecht Institute are there for the first time succeeded in detecting errors in the DNA code of healthy human cells. They found that stem cells in organs with a high cancer risk the same amount of DNA-errors collect as organs with a low risk.

This surprising finding shows that the chance of cancer cannot be explained by the number of DNA errors, is evident from the study that was published in Nature.

Not all types of cancer just as often. Bodies from which the stem cells are less likely to share, show a lower risk of cancer. So is colon cancer in the Netherlands is fifteen times more common than primary liver cancer.

Stem cells are the main source for the renewal of the organs. The presumption was that the difference in cancer risk might be due to the number of inevitable DNA errors that build up during the sharing of stem cells. Cells that more parts would be more DNA to contain errors and therefore rather cause cancer.

On this controversial idea is the last year a publication appeared, which is currently in science, a fierce debate is going on. From the new DNA testing now shows that any stem cell there is an annual forty DNA errors, independent of the deelsnelheid.


Lifestyle can contribute to cancer: increases so, for example, smoking the risk of lung cancer significantly. For most organs there is, however, unknown whether the risk of cancer is the result of bad luck or an unhealthy lifestyle. The current research contributes to better understanding of the role of DNA-errors in the development of cancer and may in the future contribute to better prevention.

Researcher Ruben van Boxtel: “We were surprised to see that the amount of DNA errors into the stem cells of different organs is the same. This suggests, at least for some organs, that the cancer risk is not simply due to a difference in the amount of accumulated DNA errors.”


In this international study, use was made of a unique combination of cultured mini-orgaantjes (organoïden) and large-scale DNA analyses.

These are developed in the laboratory of Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute and Edwin Cuppen of the UMC Utrecht. The researchers have the full genetic profile of these mini-orgaantjes mapped. This is the DNA examined, of the thick intestine, small intestine and leverkweken, derived from stem cells of people between 3 and 87 years old.

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