Mel Greaves

Mel F. Greaves

Deputy Head of Division at Institute of Cancer

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Charterhouse Square, London, Greater London, United Kingdom
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+44 20 7014 0462
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last updated 11/20/2017

General Information


Science Connections Wilsede

Research Scientist At the Immunology Division  - National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill


B.Sc.  - Zoology , 

B.Sc.  - Zoology , Faculty of Medicine

MD  - 

PhD  - Institute of Cancer Research

PhD  - Immunology , Faculty of Medicine


Fellow  - The Royal Society

Biologist  - University College London

Honorary Member  - Royal College of Physicians

Fellow  - the United Kingdom Academy of Medical Sciences

Fellow  - Academy of Medical Sciences

Member  - European Molecular

Recent News  

Mel Greaves, a senior researcher at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who wasn't involved in the study, called the result an "elegant demonstration" of the part of cancer stem cells in relapse.
"It tells us we will need to undertake the evolutionary diversity of cancer stem cells," Dr. Greaves said.

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These modern tragedies point to a potential reason early humans evolved dark skin, said Mel Greaves, a cell biologist at the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom. [Can People Have Blue Skin?]
"Cancer has been dismissed by effectively all scientists in the past" as the reason for the evolution of black skin, Greaves told Live Science. While pigmentation offers clear benefits, Greaves believes that cancer alone could have done the trick in driving early humans' dark skin. In modern sub-Saharan Africa, albinism is common, with about one case per every 5,000 people. In comparison, there is only one case per every 20,000 people in Europe and the United States. Greaves reviewed published cases on albinism in Africa and found that almost all albino individuals developed skin cancer in their 20s. In the South African state of Soweto, the risk of developing skin cancer is 1,000 times greater for people with albinism than for people with dark pigmentation. The prevalence of outdoor labor mean that lesions develop earlier among African people with albinism than among white-skinned Americans, Greaves found. In one study of people with albinism in Nigeria, 50 percent had skin cancer by age 26. In another study in Tanzania, 80 percent of the albino people studied developed skin cancer by age 30. Fewer than 10 percent of people with albinism in sub-Saharan Africa make it beyond age 40, Greaves wrote. Similarly, outside of Africa, the Kuna people of Panama have an albinism rate of one in 150 people. Again, virtually all albino Kuna individuals have skin cancer by age 30. These early cancers would have been a fact of life for pale humans living in sub-Saharan Africa without the benefit of medical knowledge or sunscreen, Greaves concluded. These cancers would have turned fatal, as they do today, after metastasizing to other areas or after ulcerating and becoming infected. As a result, paler people would have died more frequently at younger ages, leaving mostly darker-skinned individuals to pass on their genes. The idea is speculative, Greaves said. But, he added, his analysis of albinism in Africa is "the first time that a plausible case has been made that cancer has influenced human evolution."

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Mel Greaves, a professor at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, analysed the blood taken by midwives from the heel-pricks of newborns and found that many already have cell damage that could lead to the disease.

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