July 1, 2009

Cancer also a threat to wildlife

The World Conservation Society in New York says while cancer touches the lives of many humans, it is also a major threat to wild animal populations.

Cancer is one of the leading health concerns for humans, accounting for more than 10 percent of human deaths, said Dr. Denise McAloose, the WCS study's lead author and chief pathologist for its Global Health Program. But we now understand that cancer can kill wild animals at similar rates.

The scientists said cancer is threatening the survival of entire species, such as Tasmanian Devils on the Australian island state of Tasmania, beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River system, California sea lions, dusky dolphins and Burmeister's porpoises.

Examining the impact of cancer in wildlife, in particular those instances when human activities are identified as the cause, can contribute to more effective conservation and fits within the One World-One Health approach of reducing threats to both human and animal health, said William Karesh, director of the WCS Global Health Program.

The study appears in the July edition of the journal Nature Reviews Cancer.