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Do Sharks Really Not Get Cancer?

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"Take shark cartilage," the doctor on the daytime talk show says. "Sharks don’t get cancer, and the pills will keep you from getting it, too." The thinking behind these pills is that shark cartilage has demonstrated anti-angiogenic properties—that is, it slows or stops the development of blood vessels. Since tumors need networks of blood vessels to survive and grow, cutting off vessel growth should starve, shrink and destroy a tumor. It seems to work for the sharks, argued best-sellers like Sharks Don’t Get Cancer: How Shark Cartilage Could Save Your Life and Sharks Still Don’t Get Cancer.

There’s two big problems here, though. The first is that, while some anti-angiogenesis therapies and medications are effective and have been approved by the FDA for treating cancers, cartilage pills aren’t one of them. The pills don’t make good on the claims made about them. Cartilage pill makers and pushers base their promotions around a very small body of research that shows, says the American Cancer Society, only a “modest ability to slow the growth of new blood vessels in laboratory cell cultures and in animals” and, in a series of trials that have been critiqued for poor controls and methodology, mixed results in humans. Another study suggested that a group of patients with advanced cancer went into remission thanks to cartilage treatment, but the results weren’t published in a peer-reviewed journal and the National Cancer Institute later called the study "incomplete and unimpressive.” 

The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed and published evidence goes against shark cartilage’s supposed anti-cancer abilities. In numerous trials with both human patients and mouse models, researchers have concluded that shark cartilage provides no benefit against cancers. Both the FDA and FTC have pulled shark cartilage products from the market and/or fined their manufacturers for making unproven claims about anti-cancer properties.

The second problem is that the very foundation of the cartilage pill cure—the idea that sharks don’t get cancer—isn’t at all true.

Sharks get cancer. We knew that even before people started claiming that they didn’t and using that to market cartilage pills. The first tumor recorded on a cartilaginous fish was found on a skate in 1853, and the first found on a shark followed in 1908. Since then, researchers have found some 40 instances of cancerous tumors in at least 24 shark species. These tumors were found in various parts of the body—including in the cartilage and on the face of this poor great white shark.

Image courtesy of Andrew Fox and Sam Cahir 

So, yes, Virginia, there are cancer-stricken sharks, and using bits and pieces of them in pills won’t do anything for you. 

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Animals
Why Male Hyenas Have It Worse Than Females
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A life of hunting zebras and raising young on the savanna isn’t half bad for a female hyena. Sadly, the same can’t be said for their male counterparts. As MinuteEarth explains, things take a downturn for the males of the species once they hit adolescence. No female in their pack will mate with them, a behavior scientists believe evolved to avoid inbreeding, so they head off in search of a different group to join. After dealing with vicious hazing from their new clan, they file in at the bottom of the rank and wait for other males above them to die so that they can slowly gain status.

Even after rising through the hierarchy, the most a male hyena can aspire to is being second place to the lowest-ranking female. Thanks to their bulky build and aggressive behavior, female hyenas enjoy a dominant position that’s rare in the animal kingdom.

After watching the video below, head over here for more facts about hyenas.

[h/t MinuteEarth]

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Art
A Beached Whale Sculpture Popped Up on the Banks of Paris's Seine River
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In Paris, dozens of fish varieties live in the Seine River. Now, the Associated Press reports that the famous waterway is home to a beached whale.

Rest assured, eco-warriors: The sperm whale is actually a lifelike sculpture, installed on an embankment next to Notre Dame Cathedral by Belgian artists’ collective Captain Boomer. It’s meant to raise environmental awareness, and evoke "the child in everyone who still is puzzled about what is real and what is not,” collective member Bart Van Peel told the Associated Press.

The 65-foot sculpture has reportedly startled and confused many Parisians, thanks in part to a team of fake scientists deployed to “survey” the whale. One collective member even posted a video on social media, warning Parisians that there “may be others in the water” if they opt to take a dip in the river, The Local reported.

The whale sculpture is only temporary—but as for Captain Boomer, this isn’t their first whale-related stunt. Last summer, the collective installed a similar riverside artwork in Rennes, France, and they also once strapped a large-scale whale sculpture to the back of a truck and drove it around France.

[h/t Associated Press]

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