Environmental Pollution Causes Cancer in Wild Animals

2018-05-23

As humans, we know some of the factors that can cause cancer to develop in our bodies. Smoking, poor diets, pollution, chemicals used as additives in food and personal hygiene products, and even too much sun are some of the things that contribute to an increased risk of cancer.

 

But, are human activities also causing cancer in wild animals? Are we oncogenic — a species that causes cancer in other species?

 

Researchers from Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences think so and are urgently calling for research into this topic. In a paper published online today in Nature Ecology & Evolution, Mathieu Giraudeau and Tuul Sepp, both postdoctoral researchers in the lab of ASU life sciences Professor Kevin McGraw, say that humans are changing the environment in a way that causes cancer in wild animal populations.

 

“We know that some viruses can cause cancer in humans by changing the environment that they live in — in their case, human cells — to make it more suitable for themselves,” said Sepp. “Basically, we are doing the same thing. We are changing the environment to be more suitable for ourselves, while these changes are having a negative impact on many species on many different levels, including the probability of developing cancer.”

 

In the paper, Giraudeau and Sepp and a team of international researchers point out many pathways and previous scientific studies that show where human activities are already taking a toll on animals. These include chemical and physical pollution in our oceans and waterways, accidental release of radiation into the atmosphere from nuclear plants, and the accumulation of microplastics in both land- and water-based environments. In addition, exposure to pesticides and herbicides on farmlands, artificial light pollution, loss of genetic diversity and animals eating human food are known to cause health problems.

 

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