Peto’s Paradox: evolution’s prescription for cancer prevention

Author: Caulin, A.F.; Maley, C.C.

Description: The evolution of multicellularity required the suppression of cancer. If every cell has some chance of becoming cancerous, large, long-lived organisms should have an increased risk of developing cancer compared with small, short-lived organisms. The lack of correlation between body size and cancer risk is known as Peto’s paradox. Animals with 1000 times more cells than humans do not exhibit an increased cancer risk, suggesting that natural mechanisms can suppress cancer 1000 times more effectively than is done in human cells. Because cancer has proven difficult to cure, attention has turned to cancer prevention. In this review, similar to pharmaceutical companies mining natural products, we seek to understand how evolution has suppressed cancer to develop ultimately improved cancer prevention in humans.

Subject headings: Animals; Body Size/genetics; Cell Transformation, Neoplastic/genetics; Evolution, Molecular; Humans; Selection, Genetic

Publication year: 2011

Journal or book title: Trends in Ecology & Evolution

Volume: 26

Issue: 4

Pages: 175-182

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 2996