Some Human Cancers Found to Be ‘Evolutionary Accidents’

One hypothesis is that the increasing life expectancy of humans is allowing the appearance of cancers that would not have affected our ancestors. (Credit: University of Liverpool)
One hypothesis is that the increasing life expectancy of humans is allowing the appearance of cancers that would not have affected our ancestors. (Credit: University of Liverpool)

Cancer is a major cause of death worldwide. But humans are not the only species affected by cancer; in fact, only a few primitive animals are thought to escape the disease.

Furthermore, incidence rates and cancer types differ widely among species. However, how cancer patterns in humans compare to those of other species remains largely unknown.

New research, published in Biological Reviews and conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool and Escola Superior de Ciências da Saúde (Brasília, Brazil), has found some types of cancers unique to humans may be a result of evolutionary accidents.

Researchers, led by Dr. Joao Pedro De Magalhaes from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, aimed to identify further clues about cancer and its evolutionary underpinnings in humans and across a wide range of animals by conducting the largest survey of animal cancer data to date.

Blood cancers

The researchers began examining data relating to primates, then continued onto other mammals before examining cancer in birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and finally invertebrates and plants.

They then reviewed the cancer incidence and types for humans and animal types. They found that some types of cancer are widespread across nearly all species, like blood cancers (lymphomas and leukaemia), and there are some types of cancer that seem to be unique to humans, like lung cancer, prostate, and testicular cancers.

These could be evolutionary accidents, a product of random events in the evolution of our species, Dr. De Magalhaes, said:

Another hypothesis is that the increasing life expectancy of humans is allowing the appearance of cancers that would not have affected our ancestors.

Cultural changes and technological advances

First author Thales Albuquerque said:

Dr. De Magalhaes added:

Provided by: University of Liverpool [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

Like this article? Subscribe to our weekly email for more!     

‘Zombie’ Raccoons Attack Youngstown, Ohio