Article ID: CBB401173230

Is cancer a matter of luck? (2021)


In 2015, Tomasetti and Vogelstein published a paper in Science containing the following provocative statement: “… only a third of the variation in cancer risk among tissues is attributable to environmental factors or inherited predispositions. The majority is due to “bad luck,” that is, random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells.” The paper—and perhaps especially this rather coy reference to “bad luck”—became a flash point for a series of letters and reviews, followed by replies and yet further counterpoints. In this paper, I critically assess Tomasetti and Vogelstein's argument, discuss the meaning of “luck” (or, better: “chance”) in the context of the debate, and use this case study to address larger questions about methodological criteria for causal explanations of population level patterns in biomedicine.

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Authors & Contributors
Baetu, Tudor M.
Strauss, Bernard S.
Dudley, John
Goldstein, Donna M.
Stawkowski, Magdalena E.
Merlin, Francesca
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Biology and Philosophy
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine
Journal of the History of Biology
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Science, Technology and Human Values
State University of New York Press
Stanford University Press
Editiones Roche
New York University
Cancer; tumors
Philosophy of medicine
Dubrova, Yuri E.
Neel, James van Gundia
Darwin, Charles Robert
Lamarck, Jean Baptiste Antoine Pierre de Monet de
Bohm, David
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
United States
Great Britain

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