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What happens when your p53 genes are underactive?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
In a perfect world, you'd be able to kill the cancers and let the stem cells through. But the p53 protein doesn't always follow our ideal model. Sometimes it's not active enough (increasing your risk of cancer), and sometimes it's more aggressive than a German shepherd with its crosshairs on a drug smuggler (increasing your risk of dying from frailty).

One example of how this works is in people with what's called Li-Fraumeni syndrome. People with this rare syndrome have a mutant p53 gene—it's like having their guard dog asleep at the gate. Half the people with this syndrome develop cancer by age 30, compared to 1 percent of the regular population. On the other extreme, having the perfect model of p53 (in other words, an aggressive one) means that you increase the risk of death from frailty.
You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty

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You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty

International bestselling authors of YOU: The Owner's Manual and YOU: On a Diet give you all the tools and know-how to stay young and defy the ageing process. Drawing lively parallels between your...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.