Cancer is one of the most complicated diseases in human history, if not the most complicated. Every year funds are dedicated to cancer research and scientists are trying to find a solution to cure it. Still there is one species in the world that barely deals with cancer. These lucky creatures are elephants. It seems like they almost never have to deal with the pain that humans endure.
The cancer death rate for elephants is around 5%. Most of the other animals’ cancer death rate doubles, peaking at 10%. When you first think about it, this doesn’t really make sense. How can a bigger creature, with more cells and a higher chance of allowing cancer to develop have such good numbers? But scientists have come to a conclusion that explains the phenomenon.
It is called Peto’s Paradox. A new study might have just revealed how elephants counter the disease, so that’s why one barely deals with cancer. Awkwardly enough, if elephant cells are exposed to cancer, they die immediately. It’s a simple and fascinating process. It’s like the cell understands that it can affect the body in its current condition, so it commits suicide so that the many survive.
Imagine that the elephants’ cells are thinking and working together and they recognize that each and every one of them has an important role to play. If one member of the “society” is infected, he will gladly fall back so that the rest of the tribe can carry on as if nothing ever happened. We have to acknowledge that this is a very smart system.
Elephants in science are commonly known as pachyderms, which means that they are covered by a very tough and thick skin. While there has not been much researchers into other pachyderms like rhinos or hippos, scientists have theorized that the cancer fight back system relies on a gene named p53. This gene practically eliminates any kind of tumor.
The gene is present in other animals as well, but this is where the elephant’s size advantage comes in. A small animal can have one copy of the gene, but then the elephant comes in with 20 copies and shuts down the comparison. Call it survival instincts, survival of the fittest, evolution or even luck.
And this is Peto’s Paradox. You would normally think that large equals more chances of getting cancer. But larger is simply better, so elephants will continue to fight back cancer effectively.
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