By Middle Age, Healthy People Have Way More Cancer-Causing Mutations Than We Thought

Live Science | 10/19/2018 | Staff
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Aging causes changes in our bodies and our cells. But a new study finds that the extent of these changes could be a lot greater than we previously thought.

Middle-age and elderly people have more mutant cells in their esophagus than they do normal cells, a group of researchers reported yesterday (Oct. 18) in the journal Science. Further, some of these mutations are associated with esophageal cancer.

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For the most part, these mutations don't have any effect on healthy cells, and those cells continue chugging along, unfazed. But sometimes mutations can be detrimental— the new set of instructions can, for example, tell a healthy cell to divide and multiply rapidly and prevent other cells from stopping this uncontrolled cell growth. Healthy cells can thus turn cancerous.

In the new study, the researchers wanted to understand what mutations are present in healthy people. The team examined the tissue that lines the esophagus from nine donors between the ages of 20 and 75. They used gene sequencing — a method that reveals the genetic makeup of a tissue — to see how many known cancer-associated mutations each donor carried.

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They found that, by the time people reached middle age, over half of the tissue that lines the esophagus contained mutated genes associated with esophageal cancer: 14 in total. Surprisingly, they found that...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Live Science
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