Breeding and Cancer by Theresa Garton, MD

Christopher Glaeser wrote:

(snip). In summary, there have been six responses suggesting that cancer rates have remained the same, one response that it has remained the same or increased, and one response that it has decreased. (snip). it would be most helpful if some would be willing to post their comments publicly. (snip). I believe a dialog on the subject of cancer, and cancer rates in particular, would be most helpful in better understanding this issue.

For review, the original question was:
Have boxer breeders made significant reductions in the rate of cancer through stringent breeding practices?

I would bet that the rate of cancer in boxers is probably increasing. The rate in cancer in all mammals is increasing, so I can't believe it isn't happening to boxers. HOWEVER, I also believe that the _relative_ rate of cancer in boxers is declining. I attended a lecture at ABC several years ago given by Ann Jeglum, DVM, a cancer specialist who was practising in Pennsylvania at the time. She developed a vaccine that was used for the treatment(not the prevention) of a certain type of lymphoma. She discussed rates of cancer in boxers and other breeds.

What she said was that, as I have said above, the rates in cancer are increasing across the board. But, certain breeds, Golden Retrievers were one of them, the rate is increasing astronomically, noticeably and predictably within a certain few families. She even said that certain breeders were aware of this, and breeding their animals extremely young, so that they would have puppies from them after they died of cancer at a year of age!!!!

She said that the rate of increase in boxers was less than the dog population at large, and that their standings in numbers of cancers diagnosed was decreasing. In fact, she asked what we were doing right to make this happen. Unforutanately, none of us knew what we were doing. Moreover, she said that boxers tended to do better, even if they were diagnosed with cancer, and tended to live quality lives longer than other breeds with similar cancer staging at initial diagnosis.

I have not seen any statistical data to back up her statements, but the above paragraph mirrors my experience, and that of my vet, who sees a _lot_ of boxers.

So, in summary, while the actual numbers of cancers in boxers is probably increasing-probably as a result in environmental factors, but it seems to be increasing slower than other animals exposed to the same risk. And, boxers are tough to keep down, they do better, and live longer even if they _do_ get cancer, at least across a large population.

I was dismayed to see, despite information like the above, that on a flyer I saw at my vet's office advertising a new prescription diet for dogs with cancer, the cover was decorated with a drawing of a plain, natural eared boxer. Old perceptions die hard. My vet's sister has a boxer, took him to a different vet(they live in different cities) for a bump on his leg. The other vet diagnosed cancer just by looking at the knot-and noting his breed- and wanted to amputate! Fortunately, the sister said no, took the boxer to my vet, who diagnosed a puncture wound that just hadn't healed yet. The lump was gone in a couple of weeks. There are too many vets who think "boxer=cancer". Hopefully education can change this.

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