Urban environment and cancer in wildlife available evidence and future research avenues

Authors: Tuul Sepp , Beata Ujvari , Paul W. Ewald , Frédéric Thomas and Mathieu Giraudeau

SourceThe Royal Society, Volume 286, Issue 1894 (Published: 02 January 2019)

Brief summary of the paper: While it is generally known that the risk of several cancers in humans is higher in urban areas compared with rural areas, cancer is often deemed a problem of human societies with modern lifestyles.

At the same time, more and more wild animals are affected by urbanization processes and are faced with the need to adapt or acclimate to urban conditions. These include, among other things, increased exposure to an assortment of pollutants (e.g. chemicals, light and noise), novel types of food and new infections.

According to the abundant literature available for humans, all of these factors are associated with an increased probability of developing cancerous neoplasias; however, the link between the urban environment and cancer in wildlife has not been discussed in the scientific literature.

Here, we describe the available evidence linking environmental changes resulting from urbanization to cancer-related physiological changes in wild animals. We identify the knowledge gaps in this field and suggest future research avenues, with the ultimate aim of understanding how our modern lifestyle affects cancer prevalence in urbanizing wild populations.

In addition, we consider the possibilities of using urban wild animal populations as models to study the association between environmental factors and cancer epidemics in humans, as well as to understand the evolution of cancer and defence mechanisms against it.