Tuesday May 22, 2018

Healthy lifestyle crucial for cancer prevention

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New York: Offering a new explanation for what drives cancer, recent research has shown that cells with cancerous mutations can suddenly find themselves most fit, allowing their population to expand when the tissue ecosystem changes due to ageing, smoking, or other stressors. mother-491952_640

Arguing against the commonly held “accumulation of mutations” model of cancer, the study favors a model that depends on evolutionary pressures acting on populations of cells. It, therefore, contends that the ecosystem of a healthy tissue landscape lets healthy cells out compete ones with cancerous mutations.

This new thinking about what drives cancer development may have profound implications for cancer therapy and drug design.

“We have been trying to make drugs that target mutations in cancer cells,” said study senior author James DeGregori, associate director for basic science at University of Colorado Cancer Center in the US.

“But if it is the ecosystem of the body, and not only cancer-causing mutations, that allows the growth of cancer, we should also be prioritizing interventions and lifestyle choices that promote the fitness of healthy cells in order to suppress the emergence of cancer,” said DeGregori.

The proposed model, presented in the journal PNAS, helps to answer a longstanding question in cancer science known as Peto’s Paradox — if cancer is due to random activating mutation, larger animals with more cells should be at greater risk of developing the disease earlier in their lives.

Well, then why do mammals of vastly different sizes and lifespans all seem to develop cancer mostly late in life? The answer to this proposed by researchers is that in addition to activating mutation, cancer may require age-associated changes to the tissue landscape in order for evolution to favor the survival and growth of cancer cells over the competition from healthy cells.

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Study Shows that Humans Are Influencing Cancer in Wild Animals

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.

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To study how obesity affects this defense mechanism, the team bred mice that were designed to express a known cancer-inducing mutant protein called Ras.
Representational Image, Pixabay

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.

Other than chronic diseases, lifestyle habits like smoking causes cancer too. Pixabay
Other than chronic diseases, lifestyle habits like smoking causes cancer too. Pixabay

“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

Also Read: Lifestyle Habits That Affect Breast Cancer Risk

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. (IANS)

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