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Human activities might influence oncogenic processes in wild animal populations

Nature Ecology & Evolutionvolume 2pages10651070 (2018) | Download Citation


Based on the abundant studies available on humans showing clear associations between rapid environmental changes and the rate of neoplasia, we propose that human activities might increase cancer rate in wild populations through numerous processes. Most of the research on this topic has concentrated on wildlife cancer prevalence in environments that are heavily contaminated with anthropogenic chemicals. Here, we propose that human activities might also increase cancer rate in wild populations through additional processes including light pollution, accidental (for example, human waste) or intentional (for example, bird feeders) wildlife feeding (and the associated change of diet), or reduction of genetic diversity in human-impacted habitats. The human species can thus be defined as an oncogenic species, moderating the environment in the way that it causes cancer in other wild populations. As human impacts on wildlife are predicted to increase rather than decrease (for example, in the context of urbanization), acknowledging the possible links between human activity and cancer in wild populations is crucial.

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Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: Mathieu Giraudeau, Tuul Sepp.


  1. School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

    • Mathieu Giraudeau
    •  & Tuul Sepp
  2. Centre for Ecology & Conservation, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Penryn, UK

    • Mathieu Giraudeau
  3. Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia

    • Tuul Sepp
  4. Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Victoria, Australia

    • Beata Ujvari
  5. Department of Biology, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA

    • Paul W. Ewald
  6. CREEC, Montpellier, France

    • Frédéric Thomas
  7. MIVEGEC, Montpellier, France

    • Frédéric Thomas


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Correspondence to Frédéric Thomas.

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