Sea Turtles in the Cancer Risk Landscape: A Global Meta-Analysis of Fibropapillomatosis Prevalence and Associated Risk Factors

Authors: Antoine M. Dujon, Gail Schofield, Roberto M. Venegas, Frédéric Thomas and Beata Ujvari

Source: Pathogens (OCT2021)


Several cancer risk factors (exposure to ultraviolet-B, pollution, toxins and pathogens) have been identified for wildlife, to form a “cancer risk landscape.” However, information remains limited on how the spatiotemporal variability of these factors impacts the prevalence of cancer in wildlife.

Here, we evaluated the cancer risk landscape at 49 foraging sites of the globally distributed green turtle (Chelonia mydas), a species affected by fibropapillomatosis, by integrating data from a global meta-analysis of 31 publications (1994–2019).

Evaluated risk factors included ultraviolet light exposure, eutrophication, toxic phytoplanktonic blooms, sea surface temperature, and the presence of mechanical vectors (parasites and symbiotic species).

Prevalence was highest in areas where nutrient concentrations facilitated the emergence of toxic phytoplankton blooms. In contrast, ultraviolet light exposure and the presence of parasitic and/or symbiotic species did not appear to impact disease prevalence.

Our results indicate that, to counter outbreaks of fibropapillomatosis, management actions that reduce eutrophication in foraging areas should be implemented.