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Wildlife faces cancer threat
Date:6/24/2009

While cancer touches the lives of many humans, it is also a major threat to wild animal populations as well, according to a recent study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

A newly published paper in the July edition of Nature Reviews Cancer compiles information on cancer in wildlife and suggests that cancer poses a conservation threat to certain species. The WCS authors highlight the critical need to protect both animals and people through increased health monitoring.

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

In certain situations, cancer threatens the survival of entire species. The Tasmanian devil, the world's largest carnivorous marsupial, is at risk of extinction due to a cancer known as devil facial tumor disease. This form of contagious cancer spreads between individual Tasmanian devils through direct contact (primarily fighting and biting). To save the species from this fatal disease, conservationists are relocating cancer-free Tasmanian devils to geographically isolated areas or zoos.

Many species living within polluted aquatic environments suffer high rates of cancerous tumors, and studies strongly suggest links between wildlife cancers and human pollutants. For example, the study cites the case of beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River system. These whales have an extraordinarily high rate of intestinal cancer, which is their second leading cause of death. One type of pollutant in these waterspolycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAHs)is a well-known carcinogen in humans, and PAHs are suspected carcinogens for beluga whales as well. Fish in other industrialized waterways, including brown bullhead catfish and English sole, also exhibit high levels of cancer.
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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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