In marking this year's World Cancer Day, PAHO/WHO is promoting the theme that "preventing and controlling cancer is not beyond us''.  This message of optimism focuses on the fact that there are cost-effective interventions, feasible for all resource settings, that can reduce cancer deaths.A recent scientific report on the causes of cancer,  published in the journal Science on 2 January, 2015 by Dr Cristian Tomasetti and Dr Bert Vogelstein, suggests that random mutations, or "bad luck" are major contributors to cancer. Yet, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization´s specialized cancer agency has shown strong disagreement with the conclusion of this report.

IARC experts note the serious contradiction in this report with the extensive body of epidemiological evidence on the causes of cancer, as well as a number of methodological limitations and biases in the analysis presented in the report. Population risk factors are well known for many common cancers, and can be modified through healthy public policies that support healthy lifestyles.

Furthermore, international epidemiological research has shown that most cancer that are frequent in one population are relatively rare in another and that these patterns vary over time. These observations are characteristic of many common cancers and are consistent with a major contribution of environmental and lifestyle exposures, as opposed to genetic variation or chance ("bad luck").Finally, the IARC calls to continue the search for causes of cancer as well as investing in prevention measures for those cancers whose risk factors are known.

Read the IARC press release