Genetic mutations are not always made by the fault of cell division. Mutations can occur due to the environmental surroundings such as exposed to an excess amount of radiation, smoking or being exposed to cigarettes, and being exposed to ultraviolet rays for a prolonged period of time. Because mutations are such a huge factor in cancer, more recently researchers have been studying these mutations to try and comprehend how the mutations appear in healthy cells and what causes these once healthy cells to develop into cancer.
Through research scientists have discovered that our so called, 'healthy cells', are riddled with different mutations and some of these mutations were previously thought to be the leading causes of cancer. For the fact that we did not have this type of technology up until recently, the mutations that were detectable had to be very common, which is why we also find these common mutations in our healthy cells. The hidden story lies behind the rare types of mutations which is what these scientists sought to unearth.
A study done in 2015 on epithelial cells that were left over from cosmetic surgeries (specifically the eyelid) were put under a microscope and genetically tested. They took 74 genes that are known to be cancer causing and used them as a list to look for. The scientists found that mutations that were found in the cancerous cells were also found in these healthy skin cells too. Statistically they said, "one in every four epithelial cells carried a mutation on a cancer-linked gene" which would in turn speed up the growth of the cell.
Because the scientists found so many cancerous cells in the epithelial cells, they decided to dig deeper into the body and study the cells of the esophagus and see if the same would be for them. What the scientists discovered is that they did turn out the same, and because of this, these scientists are lead to believe that the cause of cancer lies with age. With age, they say, comes more mutations and more loss of the original genetic information as the cells are divided over and over again.
Since finishing the study, scientists have not come up with a proper way to cure or treat it. In this case, the study that was done opens up a new can of worms for cancer studies. What generation of cells is more susceptible to cancer? Is genetic modification the cure to these cancerous cells and if so, what will this do about aging if this theory is true? I think this is a wonderful beginning of a new way to look at cancer. For years we have been focused on it as an overgrowth of cells with mutations and now we are more focused on what those mutations are and how are those mutations created inside the human body. I'm very excited to hear about the next study that these scientists will conduct, I wonder if it will open up yet another door into the unknown world of the cancer cell.