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No. 25: Jan-Feb 1983

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Why don't we all have cancer?

Biologists have just found that the difference between a normal human gene responsible for manufacturing a specific protein and a gene causing cancer is the replacement of a single nucleotide by another in a very long string of nucleotides. This is a very delicate situation. The difference between cancer and no cancer is simply too tiny. Given the high frequency of random changes (mutations), we should all have cancer. One implication is that humans (and other animals, too) have come up with some method of preventing or correcting these minor mutations -- otherwise we would have become extinct long ago. No one knows what this mechanism is or why it sometimes fails.

(Anonymous; "More Speculation about Oncogenes," Nature, 300;213, 1982.)

Reference. Other anomalies of cancer are cataloged in BHH23-35 in: Biological Anomalies: Humans II. For a description of this volume, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #25, JAN-FEB 1983. � 1983-2000 William R. Corliss