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Approved Research

The consequences of evolutionary mismatches for cancer

Principal Investigator: Dr Antoine Dujon
Approved Research ID: 79024
Approval date: July 11th 2022

Lay summary

Humans have experienced major and recent evolutionary changes in their anatomy, physiology and life history, especially longevity, where the proportion of individuals surviving to old ages has increased since the Early Upper Paleolithic. Evolutionary mismatches in our species also undoubtedly occurred each time we modified our environmental conditions (e.g. sanitation, health care, reduced predation, increase in food availability), including in the past 100 years with the industrial revolutions, where our lifestyle has quickly and radically changed. We currently live in environments never experienced before in human evolutionary history and for which we are not well adapted, causing evolutionary mismatches and leading to an increase in the incidence of certain diseases (e.g. cancer). Here we propose to investigate the extent to which variation in cancer risk can be predicted by variation in exposure to evolutionary mismatches (exposures to infectious agents; early life nutrition; sleep patterns; birth weight and reproductive life-histories). This project will be the first to harness the depth and breadth of the Biobank dataset to conduct a systematic evaluation of various types of evolutionary mismatches on all types of cancers. The findings will advance our understanding of patterns of diversity in cancer risk and will be of interest to both the medical community and the public alike.