Could everyone develop a hidden cancer?

Science Talk: the ICR blog

Around one in three of us will be diagnosed with cancer during our lifetime. But research over the last couple of decades has led some researchers to the uncomfortable conclusion that as we age perhaps all of us develop hidden, or ‘covert’, cancer.

This is the subject of an interesting review published in Nature Reviews Cancer by Professor Mel Greaves here at The Institute of Cancer Research in London. By defining ‘covert’ cancer as “a [growth] or tumour that is considered to be either malignant [or a] recognised precursor to malignant cancer”, Professor Greaves refers to many intriguing studies that have shown that many people have cancer without knowing they have it.

Many of these are post mortem studies, in which researchers look for cancer in the bodies of people who have died of accidental or non-cancerous causes. These studies have shown that pre-malignant lesions – essentially tumours that have…

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