After two or three of these driver genes get mutated in the same cell, they can transform that healthy cell into a cancer cell.
In their new paper in Science, the researchers attempted to show how often those random errors are an inevitable part of cell division, how often they are caused by variables like tobacco smoke and how often they are inherited.
The researchers found that 66 percent of the total mutations are random, while 29 percent are due to the environment. The remaining 5 percent are due to heredity.
So, what can people do about preventing cancer? "Nothing. Right now, nothing," Vogelstein told NPR.