Malignancies and High Birth Weight in Human: Which Cancers Could Result from Antagonistic Pleiotropy?

Author(s): Frédéric Thomas, Eric Elguero, Jacques Brodeur, Benjamin Roche, Dorothée Missé, and Michel Raymond


Abstract Persistence of cancer over evolutionary times is a challenging question for scientists. We explored here the idea that cancer might result from negative tradeoffs of adaptations that improve early survival and/or reproductive fitness. We focused on birth weight since this life history trait has a genetic basis and is also associated with fitness benefits early in life, especially survival. Our analysis includes 107 to 109 countries, 46 types of cancer and various potentially confounding variables. High birth weight was associated with an elevated incidence of ten cancers: kidney cancer, melanoma, multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer, all four in both men and women, plus prostate and bladder cancers in men. These results, though correlational, suggest that antagonistic pleiotropy should be investigated further as a possible mechanism involved in the causation of cancer in humans.


image 10.4303/jem/Q120502

Share this article