A game of dice?
The world is a rough place and DNA gets damaged constantly. Life on Earth would have been a short lived experiment indeed if DNA damage was always fatal. Each cell in your body has some very sophisticated ways of dealing with DNA damage. Find out more. DNA repair is pretty efficient. It doesn’t go wrong often and it usually takes more than one wrong letter in the code for there to be a problem.
For there to be a problem, a cell must suffer enough damage that a chapter of the instruction manual changes its meaning. It's particularly bad news if the damaged chapter is one that deals with teamwork. A loss of teamwork can be the start of cancer.
Even if damage was done to a teamwork chapter, the cell would need to damage the other teamwork chapters.
Damaging a single chapter on teamwork is a little like rolling a die and getting a 1 on the first throw. Not impossible, but a bit unlucky. You wouldn’t want to keep rolling the die; you’re going to get a 1 sooner or later. Much of the health advice we get about avoiding cancer can be thought of as trying to roll the die as little as possible – no guarantees, but you can to stack the odds in your favour.
There are seven chapters on teamwork, so we are rolling seven dice, not just one. Imagine trying to roll seven 1s at once; not very likely. Still, it’s probably better not to keep rolling the dice too often. 1 in 280,000 is a slim chance, but it’s not 0.
This is partly why people get cancer at different ages. Some people are trying to avoid getting seven 1s with six-sided dice (once in every 280,000 rolls); some people have 20-sided dice (seven 1s every 1.3 billion rolls). They are going to take much longer to roll a bad throw. Some people are just lucky with their DNA.
We have now worked out which seven characteristics need to be acquired.