Why do the majority of people never get cancer?

A highly productive scientific career of over 60 years might lead you to reflect on longevity. Maybe that is what George Klein to ask a very interesting question.

Every year, millions of people are diagnosed with cancer – a remarkably high number. But what about the flipside of those statistics? That is, two out of three people never get cancer, and more than half of heavy smokers don’t get cancer, either. A recent study points out this overlooked fact, and suggests that researchers might discover something by asking why so many people are resistant to the often deadly disease.
via Physorg

In an article in PNAS, Klein outline five mechanisms that seem to offer protection against cancer (immunological mechanisms, genetic factors like DNA repair, epigenetic factors regulating gene expression, intra and intercellular cell-death mechanisms).

He then outlines how research has generally been far more focused on susceptibilities but that there could be just as much to be learnt from the study of cancer resistance.


Klein, George. “Toward a genetics of cancer resistance.” PNAS, January 20, 2009, vol. 106, no. 3, 859-863.


George Klein is also the author of an excellent science memoir The Atheist in the Holy City. Good for a little light reading.

About caspar

Caspar is just one monkey among billions. Battering his keyboard without expectations even of peanuts, let alone of aping the Immortal Bard. By day he is an infantologist at Birkbeck Babylab, by night he runs BabyLaughter.net
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