Why some people get cancer and others don’t is one of the great medical mysteries. Why some organs in our body are more likely to get cancer than other organs is part of that mystery as well.
Is it genetics, environment, habits and exposures? Actually, we know that it is a combination of all of the above, most of the time there is no explanation why a person gets a cancer in a particular organ.
To understand this variation in cancer risk, my former professor at Hopkins, Bert Vogelstein, MD, found a strong correlation between the risk of an organ developing cancer and how many stem cells…..’self-renewing cells’….that are present. The random mutations in these stem cells, as they divide to provide ongoing cells for organ function, accounts for the reason that certain organs such as the prostate or breast are more likely to develop cancer in them than the kidney or brain (cancers that are much rarer). It is this ‘bad luck’ of mutations in our cells dividing in these organs that is not predictable, but is responsible for 65% of our cancer risk.