European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 447–449 | Cite as

“Bad luck” hypothesis and cancer prevention: translating the debate to more actions

  • Mingyang SongEmail author

Etiologic research constitutes an essential part of both biology and epidemiology. For cancer, our biological understanding about its root cause has been significantly advanced by genetic research in the past few decades. It is now widely accepted that cancer is the result of accumulation of gene mutations that successively increase cell proliferation [1]. On the other hand, population-based epidemiologic studies have focused on extrinsic and hereditary causes of cancer and identified a variety of modifiable risk factors. These data have been translated into effective prevention strategies (e.g., tobacco control) that have largely contributed to the decline in cancer mortality in the recent decades (e.g., 27% decrease between 1991 and 2016 in the United States) [2].

While each of the two major branches of cancer research—molecular biology and epidemiology—has made substantial contributions to cancer etiology, they have developed largely independently and the threads that connect them...


Funding support

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (K99CA215314 and R00CA215314) and the American Cancer Society (MRSG-17-220-01 – NEC).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author has no conflict of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Epidemiology and NutritionHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Clinical and Translational Epidemiology UnitMassachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Division of GastroenterologyMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA

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