Evolution of carcinogenesis

For those interested in cancer and, specifically, the history of cancer, you might find this brief fascinating review [attached] of interest. And for any of you who might not look at the South African Journal of Science on a regular basis (like most of us do) –– you might not have noticed that, in 2o16, it was reported [S Afr J Sci 2o16; 112: 1–5.] that an osteosarcoma was found in a 1.7-million-year-old bone from a hominin in South Africa. This finding confirms that cancer has been a disease affecting the human species for thousands of generations, i.e. it’s not simply a disease caused by fossil fuel pollution since the Industrial Revolution. This realization is also supported by a number of other reports suggesting the presence of malignancies –– including multiple myeloma, prostate cancer, and breast cancer in humans between 3,000 and 230 B.C.

The existence of cancer in very early hominins and the Homo sapiens species during the last 300,000 years –– before modernization and introduction of synthetic contaminants into the environment and Western world diets –– could offer clues into the etiology of this disease. Discoveries made in the modern era of scientific investigations have led to a more complete understanding of the mechanisms of carcinogenesis; these are summarized in the attached review in simplified diagrams.


Toxicol Sci Oct 2o18; 165: 272-276

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