This research shows how the environment influences the selection of genes inside of the body and is identical to the principle that Darwin found to explain the origin of species.
“The body is not a static system. Our cells are in a constant state of development, and new genetic variants arise every day. Many of these mutants are removed by the immune system but, sooner or later, a cell will break through the defences and develop into a tumour of wild-growing renegades.”
Cancer development is an evolutionary process within the multicellular organism, but it is also related to the general process of evolution through the generations. Life begins when our parent’s genes are united in the zygote. These genes have been selected through millions of generations for their ability to create a functional organism, but few days after fertilization the genes split up in two different directions. Some end up in the germ cells (sperm and ova) that will bring them to the next generation, while the rest end up in the somatic cells that make up our body. The somatic cells are initially programmed to cooperate, but as we age and new mutations arise, the evolutionary process will favour cells that break ranks and propagate freely within the body. Thus, according to Breivik, the division between germ cells and somatic cells represents the Darwinian explanation to cancer.
- The evolutionary origin of genetic instability in cancer development.
Breivik, J. Semin. Cancer Biol. (2005) 15, 51-60.
- Cancer – evolution within.
Breivik, J. Int. J. Epidemiol. (2006) 35, 1161-1162.