Nature Reviews Cancer 7, 213-221 (March 2007) | doi:10.1038/nrc2071

OpinionDarwinian medicine: a case for cancer

Mel Greaves1  About the author


Epidemiological, genetic and molecular biological studies have collectively provided us with a rich source of data that underpins our current understanding of the aetiology and molecular pathogenesis of cancer. But this perspective focuses on proximate mechanisms, and does not provide an adequate explanation for the prevalence of tumours and cancer in animal species or what seems to be the striking vulnerability of Homo sapiens. The central precept of Darwinian medicine is that vulnerability to cancer, and other major diseases, arises at least in part as a consequence of the 'design' limitations, compromises and trade-offs that characterize evolutionary processes.

Author affiliations

  1. Mel Greaves is at the Section of Haemato-Oncology, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK.

Published online 15 February 2007


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