Friday, November 1, 2013

The age specific incidence anomaly suggests that cancers originate during development

James P. Brody

Cancers are caused by the accumulation of genetic alterations. Since this accumulation takes time, the incidence of most cancers is thought to increase exponentially with age. However, careful measurements of the age-specific incidence shows that the specific incidence for many forms of cancer rises with age to a maximum, then decreases. This decrease in the age-specific incidence with age is an anomaly. Understanding this anomaly should lead to a better understanding of how tumors develop and grow. Here I derive the shape of the age-specific incidence, showing that it should follow the shape of a Weibull distribution. Measurements indicate that the age-specific incidence for colon cancer does indeed follow a Weibull distribution. This analysis leads to the interpretation that for colon cancer two sub-populations exist in the general population: a susceptible population and an immune population. Colon tumors will only occur in the susceptible population. This analysis is consistent with the developmental origins of disease hypothesis and generalizable to many other common forms of cancer.