Are humans influencing cancer in wild animals?
New York: Besides indulging in cancer causing behaviour like smoking, poor diet and low hygiene, human beings are also changing the environment in such a way that it can lead to the deadly disease in many species of wild animals, researchers have warned.
“Cancer has been found in all species where scientists have looked for it and human activities are known to strongly influence cancer rate in humans,” said Mathieu Giraudeau, postdoctoral student at the Arizona State University in the US.
“So, this human impact on wild environments might strongly influence the prevalence of cancer in wild populations with additional consequences on ecosystem functioning,” he added.
The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, pointed out many pathways including 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, that show where human activities are already taking a toll on animals.
In addition, exposure to pesticides and herbicides on farmlands, artificial light pollution, loss of genetic diversity and animals eating human food are also known to cause health problems.
“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,” explained Tuul Sepp, postdoctoral student at the varsity.
“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,” Sepp added.
Even something such as artificial light and light pollution, as well as food meant for humans, are negatively affecting wild animals.
Ruling that “cancer in wild populations is a completely ignored topic”, the researchers have urgently called for studies on cancer and its causes in wild animal populations.
“We want to highlight the fact that our species can strongly influence the prevalence of cancer in many other species of our planet,” Giraudeau said.