Is It Really True That Sharks Do Not Get Sick?

These aquatic animals are incredible in many ways, but the claim that sharks do not get sick is false. Like all other animals, they are prone to parasites and a variety of diseases, including cancer.
Is it really true that sharks do not get sick?

There are many reasons why humans are fascinated by sharks. But everything that people think about these animals is not true. For example , many believe that sharks can not get sick, but this is not the case. To better understand and appreciate these marine giants, we need to take a closer look at their biology.

First of all, did you know that sharks have existed since long before the time of the dinosaurs? In fact, the record for their history dates back about 450 million years. Therefore, these creatures have adaptations that have enabled them to survive where many other creatures could not.

One of the most striking features, which they share with their relatives, stingrays, is that they have no legs. Their skeleton consists entirely of cartilage. In addition, they can produce more than 30,000 teeth during their lifetime. So when one tooth falls off, another tooth from one of the back rows takes its place.

It is a myth that sharks do not get sick

The myth that sharks do not get sick is something we often encounter on social media. It is common to read that these are the only animals that do not get sick or that they are even immune to common diseases such as cancer.

In the early 1990s, a non-scientific book received a great deal of attention, claiming that shark cartilage could save cancer patients. Although the document did not claim that sharks are immune to cancer, it did claim that it is unusual for them to have solid tumors.

The presumed miraculous properties of shark cartilage in cancer

First of all, to understand these arguments, we must first understand the concept of angiogenesis. This word refers to the process by which new blood vessels develop from the existing vascular system. So angiogenesis is the formation of new capillaries in various tissues.

At the same time, angiogenesis is common in many types of tumors and has to do with tumor growth. In addition , cartilage does not have blood vessels. In other words, it is avascular.

Very rarely do we see the development of malignant tumors involving cartilage. The market for alternative products therefore sees cartilage as a source of antiangiogenic compounds.

Freshly harvested shark fins

Science disproves the myth that sharks do not get sick and shows that shark cartilage does not work as a cancer treatment

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, sharks suffer from all sorts of diseases. Undoubtedly, scientific reports have registered cases of cancer in sharks and even chondroma (cartilage cancer).

To date, experts have documented tumors in at least 23 different shark species. And reports of cases may increase as cancer research in these animals grows.

It is also interesting to look at the research on Neovastat , an association extracted from shark cartilage. Researchers evaluated its combination with chemotherapy in a clinical study in phase III lung cancer patients. However, after more than 6 years of follow-up , they discontinued the trial due to lack of therapeutic efficacy.

The same occurred in a clinical trial in patients with stage II renal cell carcinoma and other studies in patients with breast and colon cancer.

There was no overall improvement in survival in any of these studies. However, the market is still trying to associate shark cartilage with the treatment of diseases such as psoriasis.

The importance of the shark in the marine ecosystem

According to a 2013 study, humans kill about 100 million sharks a year. Overfishing of sharks has to do with the demand for meat, liver oil, cartilage and their valuable fins. Fishermen often cut the fins from live sharks for use in shark fin soup, an old and expensive Asian delicacy.

It is important to point out that the loss of shark populations is a cause for concern. As apex predators, they help balance the ecosystem of the world’s oceans. If there are not enough predators, there will be a number of changes in the ecosystem that will even affect marine plants.

Organizations such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are gradually expanding the list of shark species with commercial protection. However, these milestones can take time to achieve.

Sharks’ reproduction is varied and complex

The reproduction method varies between different shark species. The following three occur:

  1. Ovipari: They lay eggs and deposit them in a safe place for incubation.
  2. Vivipari: Sharks that are born alive, directly.
  3. Ovovivipari: Sharks that carry their young in egg sacs that are enclosed in the womb. The young sharks develop inside their mothers and are born alive. This is a combination of the first two strategies.

In addition, the gestation period varies from species to species, as does the size of the litter. In fact, the number of pups a female can give birth to varies from two (vivipari) to 100 (ovipari). The main consequence of very long gestation periods is that it takes a long time for vulnerable shark species to recover.

It is a myth that sharks do not get sick

The importance of knowledge to preserve sharks

Society is a machine that can dictate patients’ behavior patterns, the type of treatment they seek and what they decide on. It is quite clear that false beliefs among citizens create major problems.

It is important that we remember that most of the information on the internet and in print media is not regulated. Therefore, it may contain extreme positions that make the current problems even worse. That said, the trade in materials coming from sharks to fight cancer is a clear example of human ignorance.

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