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The effect of placentation type, litter size, lactation and gestation length on cancer risk in mammals
journal contributionposted on 2023-07-11, 00:14 authored by AM Dujon, O Vincze, JF Lemaitre, C Alix-Panabières, P Pujol, M Giraudeau, B Ujvari, F Thomas
Reproduction is a central activity for all living organisms but is also associated with a diversity of costs that are detrimental for survival. Until recently, the cost of cancer as a selective force has been poorly considered. Considering 191 mammal species, we found cancer mortality was more likely to be detected in species having large, rather than low, litter sizes and long lactation lengths regardless of the placentation types. However, increasing litter size and gestation length are not per se associated with an enhanced cancer mortality risk. Contrary to basic theoretical expectations, the species with the highest cancer mortality were not those with the most invasive (i.e. haemochorial) placentation, but those with a moderately invasive (i.e. endotheliochorial) one. Overall, these results suggest that (i) high reproductive efforts favour oncogenic processes' dynamics, presumably because of trade-offs between allocation in reproduction effort and anti-cancer defences, (ii) cancer defence mechanisms in animals are most often adjusted to align reproductive lifespan, and (iii) malignant cells co-opt existing molecular and physiological pathways for placentation, but species with the most invasive placentation have also selected for potent barriers against lethal cancers. This work suggests that the logic of Peto's paradox seems to be applicable to other traits that promote tumorigenesis.