Inclusive fitness effects can select for cancer suppression into old age

Joel S. Brown, C Athena Aktipis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Natural selection can favour health at youth or middle age (high reproductive value) over health at old age (low reproductive value). This means, all else being equal, selection for cancer suppression should dramatically drop after reproductive age. However, in species with significant parental investment, the capacity to enhance inclusive fitness may increase the reproductive value of older individuals or even those past reproductive age. Variation in parental investment levels could therefore contribute to variation in cancer susceptibility across species. In this article,we describe a simple model and framework for the evolution of cancer suppression with varying levels of parental investment and use this model to make testable predictions about variation in cancer suppression across species. This model can be extended to show that selection for cancer suppression is stronger in species with cooperative breeding systems and intergenerational transfers. We consider three cases that can select for cancer suppression into old age: (i) extended parental care that increases the survivorship of their offspring, (ii) grandparents contributing to higher fecundity of their children and (iii) cooperative breeding where helpers forgo reproduction or even survivorship to assist parents in having higher fecundity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1673
StatePublished - Jul 19 2015


  • Cooperative breeding
  • Grandparenting
  • Inclusive fitness
  • Intergenerational transfers
  • Parental investment
  • Peto’s paradox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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