Popular Science

'Zombie genes' could be why so few elephants die of cancer

Elephants are bringing a genetic gun to a cancer knife-fight.
baby elephant and elephant

Elephants live for a long time, and are huge—why do they rarely die of cancer?

The longer you live, the higher your chances of developing cancer creep toward 100 percent. Moreover, the larger you are, the greater your chances are of developing cancer as well—more cells in your body mean there are more opportunities for mutations to strike and encourage a tumor to grow. This holds true when comparing individuals within a species (including humans), but the trend falls apart when researchers compare cancer rates between different species—a mystery we call Peto’s Paradox. Elephants are some of the biggest mammals who roam the Earth, so mathematically they should be hounded by cancer at 100

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