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‘City life is giving animals cancer’

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researchers suggest the same factors could be raising the risk of cancers in wild animals living in cities such as birds, squirrels, rats, mice and hedgehogs.

Animals living in cities may be more likely to get cancer – just like humans, a study suggests.

Light, chemical and noise pollution, food high in sugars, and viruses have all been found to increase the chances of humans getting cancer.

Now researchers suggest the same factors could be raising the risk of cancers in wild animals living in cities such as birds, squirrels, rats, mice and hedgehogs.

Researchers led by Giradeau Mathieu writing in Proceedings B of the Royal Society said: “Wild animal populations can be compared to prehistoric human populations, in which fossil data indicate a low prevalence of cancer.

“It is clear that the characteristics of a modern lifestyle and the urbanising environment have brought along a change in cancer prevalence in humans, but so far little attention has been given to similar changes in wild animals.”

The authors write: “It has only recently been proposed that human activities might increase the cancer rate in wild populations.”

Feeding animals such as squirrels food such as bread – which is not a natural part of their diet – is leading to obesity although it will need more research to pinpoint the link, the authors suggest.

The researchers write: “We suggest tourist fed small mammals such as squirrels in urban parks are a good place to start looking for links between anthropogenic food, obesity and cancer in wildlife.”

The authors say that further evidence that city life is bad for animals has been found in gulls and laboratory rats, both of which show more mutations living near major motorways or steel mills.


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