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Super Seniors : Why some people don’t get cancer

Written by: Sameen Junejo

What makes someone susceptible to cancer and others impervious?

The researchers with the Canadian Cancer Society are asking just that.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 2 in 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their life and 1 in 4 Canadians will die from cancer. With statistics like that, there’s no doubt that you or someone you know has likely been affected by cancer in some way.

With almost half of the population expected to develop cancer at some point in their life, researchers with the B.C. Cancer Agency launched a “super seniors” study which collected data from over 500 healthy participants over the age of 85. The goal is to find the “genetic ‘override switches’” and use that information to develop anti-cancer drugs. The Canadian Cancer Society writes, “It’s possible that such drugs, combined with a healthy lifestyle, could help other people to have a lower risk of getting cancer.”

Over several years, researchers continue to gather and analyze health and family history information and saliva or blood samples. Participants were also required to have never been diagnosed any major health issues such as cardiovascular disease or stroke, dementia, or diabetes.

“It appears that some of these amazingly healthy super seniors, who are still active and busy at an advanced age, could be genetically protected from cancer-causing mutations,” said the study’s lead investigator Dr. Angela Brooks-Wilson.

Dal Richards, a 97-year-old participant of the study said that two of his younger siblings died from cancer. “I’m hopeful that this study will find clues into why people like me don’t get cancer.”

So as we wait for more research, Richards tells CTV News that his secret to a healthy life is walking a mile a day will keeps the doctor away. “I think exercise is very necessary … sitting in front of a television is not the answer.”

While these statistics are concerning, there is positive news reported from the Canadian Cancer society:

“It’s important to note that we are making great progress in the fight against cancer. The overall risk of dying of cancer is dropping in both men and women, thanks to improvements in screening, early detection and treatment. As for survival, today over 60% of Canadians diagnosed with cancer will survive at least 5 years after their diagnosis. In the 1940’s survival was about 25%.”(Canadian Cancer Statistics 2015)

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