It is a known fact that the risk of developing cancer cells increases with the increasing age. Furthermore, larger bodies also tend to have more risk of suffering from cancer as there are more cells in the body; therefore, enhanced chances of mutations that leads to damaged DNA and, ultimately, tumor. However, these theories fall flat when it comes to elephants. These large bodies, as per the theory discussed above, should be around 100 times more prone to suffer from cancer but this is not the case with them. Only 5% of deaths among elephants are caused by cancer. Several studies have been conducted on this matter and different findings have been deduced.

A major reason is that elephants have 20 copies of the p53 gene, a critical tumor suppressor in our bodies. The humans have a single p53 gene. Hence, the low rate of deaths caused by cancer in elephants. P53 gene, also known as tumor protein, regulates the cell cycle in our bodies and directs the response of our body against DNA damage.

In an elephant, a high number of p53 gene if found as compared to humans and other species is not the only reason for the low rate of deaths caused by cancer. Another gene in elephants, known as LIF6, also reduces the chances of these large bodies suffering from cancer.

An elephant, just like the p53 gene, has a greater number of LIF gene, 10 in total, as compared to other beings. It is also known as the ‘zombie gene’. When a cell mutation occurs in an elephant’s body, p53 genes controllers tend to get activated. They, in turn, activate LIF6. The LIF6 proteins clean up cell mitochondria. Consequently, toxic molecules spread to the other parts of the cell. This results in the quick death of the cell.

The finding of this study is that although LIF6 gene is important for elephants as it helps to lower the risk of deaths caused by cancer but it cannot work without p53 genes.

It is important to know that this study hasn’t been validated since it has been only conducted in laboratories on elephant cells. The actions of p53 and LIF6 genes haven’t been studied in living elephants; therefore, it needs proper validation before it could be used for benefits of human beings in combatting different cancers and lowering the rate of cancer-related deaths.