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No. 30: Nov-Dec 1983

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Cancer: the price for higher life?

For unknown reasons, plants and the simpler animals, such as sponges and jellyfish, do not get cancer. But all laterally symmetric organisms are prone to cancer. According to James Graham, the acquisition of cancer-initiating onco-genes by organisms (also an unexplained event) has forced these afflicted organ-isms to develop all sorts of defenses against external forces which might, with the help of the oncogenes, trigger cancer.

Typical biological defenses include systems to insure accurate replication of cells, to destroy transformed cells, and to protect or immunize the organism against invading systems. Efficient im-mune systems in turn permitted life to invade mutagenic environments (such as sunlight) and to shed restrictive body coverings. In other words, cancer may have been a blessing in disguise -- the price of higher life|

(Anonymous; "Cancer: The Price for Higher Life?" New Scientist, 99:766, 1983.)

Comment. Note how easy it is for us to say "developed" this or that characteristic in response to some applied force. Exactly how such responses are made is a major mystery. And why do oncogenes exist? Are they a product of chance? They hardly confer short-term survival capability.

Reference. The existence and insidious-ness of cancer pose many questions. These are broached in BHH23-35 in our catalog: Biological Anomalies: Humans II. To order, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #30, NOV-DEC 1983. � 1983-2000 William R. Corliss