The term tumor was originally used to describe a swelling in tissue, typically associated with inflammation. More recently the use of this word to refer to swelling associated with neoplastic growth means that it is now used almost exclusively in reference to neoplasms. Neoplasia literally means ‘new growth’. In the medical context this can be defined as: “an abnormal mass of tissue, the growth of which exceeds and is uncoordinated with that of normal tissues…”. This unregulated growth is the result of genetic alterations in tumor cells that can be the result of DNA damage by, for example, excessive UV light, exposure to carcinogenic chemicals; or may be inherited. Tumors can be benign in which case they are considered to be clinically relatively innocent i.e. typically producing a localized swelling that can be readily and completely removed and from which patients generally recover. Benign tumors, also known as cancers, tend to be clinically more aggressive, invading and destroying local tissues and spreading through the body. The outcome of malignant tumors is dependent on a wide range of factors including the site of growth, when it is detected and what treatments are available.
In free-living wildlife species, tumors are found sporadically although in some species an increased incidence of certain types of tumor has been reported e.g. oral squamous cell carcinomas in hedgehogs. In some species the genetic alteration leading to neoplasia may be caused by viral infection, for example chronic lymphoma possibly associated with retrovirus infection has been reported in grey partridges, ring-necked pheasants and rock pigeons; and, ethmoturbinate (nasal) adenocarcinoma associated with infection with enzootic nasal tumor virus has been reported in roe deer and moose in Scandinavia. Infection with papillomavirus can lead to the growth of benign tumors in the skin (fibromas and fibropapillomas) in the skin of infected dear and moose. In the United States, infection with a poxvirus, Shope fibroma virus, is a common cause of benign, self-resolving tumors under the skin of wild rabbits.
Kumar, V., Abbas, A. K., Fausto, N., Robbins, S. L., & Cotran, R. S. (2010). Robbins and Cotran pathologic basis of disease, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.
Infectious Diseases of Wild Mammals and Birds in Europe (1). Somerset, GB: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 30 September 2016.
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