A PubMed search for the term "oxidative stress" yields over 29,000 articles published on the subject over the past 10 years; more than 2000 of these articles also include the term "aging" in their title or abstract. Many theories of aging predict causal roles for oxidative stress in the myriad of pathological changes that occur as a function of age, including an increasing propensity to develop cancer. A possible link between aging and cancer is the induction and accumulation of somatic mutations caused by oxidative stress. This Review focuses on small mutational events that are induced by oxidative stress and the role of mismatch repair (MMR) in preventing their formation. It also discusses a possible inhibitory effect of oxidative stress on MMR. We speculate that a synergistic interaction between oxidative damage to DNA and reduced MMR levels will, in part, account for an accumulation of small mutational events, and hence cancer, with aging.
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