Darwinian medicine: a case for cancer

Nat Rev Cancer. 2007 Mar;7(3):213-21. doi: 10.1038/nrc2071. Epub 2007 Feb 15.


Epidemiological, genetic and molecular biological studies have collectively provided us with a rich source of data that underpins our current understanding of the aetiology and molecular pathogenesis of cancer. But this perspective focuses on proximate mechanisms, and does not provide an adequate explanation for the prevalence of tumours and cancer in animal species or what seems to be the striking vulnerability of Homo sapiens. The central precept of Darwinian medicine is that vulnerability to cancer, and other major diseases, arises at least in part as a consequence of the 'design' limitations, compromises and trade-offs that characterize evolutionary processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Species Specificity