Peto's Paradox

Peto's Paradox

In the latest issue of Atomic Magazine, an entirely pupil-led, written, and published scientific magazine, Suoxi (Year 12) explores Peto's paradox: how big animals don't get cancer.

Authored by Suoxi (Year 12)

There are tens of trillions of cells in our body, occasionally some of them mutate and start to divide uncontrollably, stealing nutrition from normal functional cells. These are cancer cells, and according to the NHS, 50% of us will develop cancer at some point in our lives. Statistics show that taller people and men also have a higher possibility of developing cancer, the reason being these groups tend to have more cells which results in a larger number of net mutations, hence a larger number of cells transforming into malignant tumours. Following that logic, the number of cells in a mouse is 0.1% of a human being and the number of cells in a human being is 0.1% of a whale. Intuition tells us whales get much more cancer than humans and mice do not get cancer at all. Absurdly, the truth is the opposite, the fact that larger, long-lived animals rarely get cancer is known as Peto’s paradox.

Named after Richard Peto, the British epidemiologist posed this question in 1977 which still left scientists baffled. To this day, there’s still no unanimous agreement on this puzzle. Nevertheless, reasonable suggestions were made aspiring to solve the paradox. (cont.)

The gene TP53 (which is a TSG) plays a key role in controlling cell divisions and helps prevent cancer development. Humans have one pair in each chromosome while African Elephants have 20 pairs. This means mutant cells need to escape 20 layers of protection to fully develop into a tumour in an African elephant.

Link to Full Article

The Atomic team are selling hard copy magazines containing all this year's articles to raise money in support of academic charity SATRO. Copies are £16 and you can register for a copy here. Explore cutting-edge Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math content designed for ambitious pupils. Stay ahead with insightful articles, ground-breaking research, and the latest trends in STEM.

Link to purchase Atomic Magazine

Atomic Magazine is focused on bringing not only scientific content but the art of communicating science to everyone, even those who prefer English over Maths! It represents the hard work of dozens of pupils in Charterhouse who write articles on their scientific interests, inside and outside the classroom. With works ranging from Chemical Engineering to Psychology to Alchemy – Atomic is for anyone who has an interest in just how important communication is in our modern world, with a special emphasis on those who are considering pursuing a Science subject.

Have a read of what our pupils have written recently at