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Vet Pathol. 1994 Jul;31(4):444-9.

Tumors in St. Lawrence beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas)

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Faculté de Médecine Vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, St. Hyacinthe, PQ, Canada.


A population of 450-500 belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) resides in the polluted estuary of the St. Lawrence River. Stranded carcasses of this endangered population were recovered and necropsied. High concentrations of organochlorines, heavy metals, and benzo-a-pyrene exposure were demonstrated in tissues of these whales. Between 1988 and 1990, 21 tumors were found in 12 out of 24 carcasses. Among these tumors, six were malignant and 15 were benign. The animals were between 1.5 and > 29 years of age, and the ages of animals with and without tumors did not differ when two juvenile animals (1.5 and 3.5 years of age) were excluded. Seven other neoplasms had been reported previously in six out of 21 well-preserved carcasses examined in the same laboratory between 1982 and 1987. Overall, 28 of the 75 confirmed tumors reported so far in cetaceans (37%) were from this small population of beluga whales in the St. Lawrence Estuary. Such a high prevalence of tumors would suggest an influence of contaminants through a direct carcinogenic effect and/or a decreased resistance to the development of tumors in this population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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