Sharks-get-cancer
Sharks have been swimming our oceans for hundreds of millions of years. However, over the last several decades we have witnessed populations of sharks plummet, worldwide. The most obvious and publicized reason has been shark fining, the often, illegal practice of butchering sharks for their fins, usually while they are still alive. The fins are then dried and sold as an ingredient in shark fin soup, considered a delicacy in China. However, there is another, often ignored issue contributing to the decline of shark numbers: the use of shark cartilage as a cure for cancer. So on World Cancer Awareness Day it seems appropriate that we look at the truth behind Sharks and Cancer and do they really have anything in common?

Starting in the 1970’s animal cartilage was being researched for its potential to inhibit the growth of blood vessels thus possibly preventing the growth of cancerous tumors. Since sharks’ skeletons are composed entirely of cartilage it was considered a perfect source for this medical application.

 

Shoddy Science and Lots of Money to Make

sharks do not get cancer sharks and cancerIn the early 90’s Dr. I William Lane took this one giant step in the wrong direction by concluding after shoddy “clinical trials” in Mexico that taking shark cartilage orally was a treatment for cancer. He came to this startling conclusion by making the unproven claim that sharks did not get cancer and consequently some secret ingredient in their cartilage must prevent cancer.

lane labs shark cartilage pills sharks and cancerIn 1992 Lane published the best-selling book Sharks Don’t Get Cancer: How Shark Cartilage Could Save Your Life. Four years later he followed with Sharks Still Don’t Get Cancer. To capitalize on his newly acquired fame Lane started his own company Lane Labs to hunt sharks and make pills.

 

Lane’s success was quickly emulated by other companies that in 1995 alone sold over $30 million in shark cartilage products. shark cartilage pills sharks and world cancer day

Today it is estimated that in US waters approximately 200,000 sharks are killed every month to feed the demands of the anti-cancer, shark cartilage market. This onslaught has brought numerous species of sharks to the brink of extinction.

 

All for a Pill that Doesn’t Work

Three, more recent and infinitely more reliable FDA-approved studies have demonstrated that shark cartilage does not cure or treat cancer. To halt the unfounded and disproven claims of the pill pushers, the Federal Trade Commission, in 2000, took the dramatic step of fining Dr. Lane $1 million and banning him from claiming that his products could prevent cancer in any way.

“Sharks get cancer,” said David Shiffman a shark researcher at the University of Miami. “Even if they didn’t get cancer, eating shark products won’t cure cancer any more than me eating Michael Jordan would make me better at basketball.”

 

The Myth of Sharks Not Getting Cancer Lives on

And the sale of anti-cancer shark cartilage products continues, exacerbating two very serious issues: people that have cancer and treat it with shark cartilage products may not be getting the real treatment that they need to defeat the disease. Secondly sharks are still getting killed in mass all because of a debunked myth.

Sharks Do Get Cancer

Scientists have known for over a hundred years that more than twenty species of shark suffer from cancer, however the myth lives on, perpetuated by those that sell pills.

shark cartilage pills sharks and cancerJust do a search on Amazon to uncover the numerous books that are still available touting the myth and the amazing variety of shark cartilage products for sale, now sold as “diet supplements” or “joint remedies.”

This fascinating article by Christie Wilcox, first appeared in Scientific American in 2011 but we thought that it was still a very important message to pass onto you. For an even more graphic look at this issue see: Sharks Do Get Cancer: Tumor Found in Great White from Live Science, Dec. 2013.

Maybe the bottom line is that sharks like humans do get cancer, both species are at the top of the food chain, but both species are vulnerable and what we are seeing happen to shark populations may be a lesson humans need to take to heart.

by Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network

 

See Related Blue Ocean Posts on Shark Preservation:

Shark Killing Banned in Florida
Tell Costa Rica No to Sale of Hammerhead Shark Fins
Ban the Trade in Shark Fins
Sea Shepherd Investigates Illegal Shark Fins Shipments
Air China Bans Shark Fin Cargo
Tell FedEx No to Shark Finning
Thai Airways Prohibits Shark Fins in Cargo
Hilton Worldwide Shark Fin Free at all 645 F&B Outlets
Make February 3, National Shark Day

 

How To Get More Ocean-Hearted Intel Delivered To Your Inbox!

We believe ocean lovers can change the world. If you care about the health of the ocean and want to do something about it, then connect with the Blue Ocean tribe: Our growing community of ocean change-makers is turning ocean lovers into ocean leaders. It starts with you. Join us!