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NY1: Corals and Cancers


Sick Coral, Healthy Coral

See photos showing the difference between a sick reef and a healthy reef.

See the latest edition of Going Green on NY1 and learn more about how coral reefs save lives.

Anyone who’s been snorkeling – or seen the movie Finding Nemo for that matter – knows that coral reefs are some of the most beautiful eco-systems on Earth. But there’s more to this underwater world than pretty colors and funny-looking fish. Turns out these life-rich reefs are also life-saving, as coral reefs have been the source for several major medical breakthroughs, including a common cancer treatment.

Did you know?
  • There might be 1 million different animal species on the world’s reefs. Coral reefs have high concentrations of different organisms living together in one place, and we have only just begun to look at them.
  • Coral reefs are a unique environment. We learn a lot about medicine by studying how those micro-organisms live – how they grow, how they defend themselves, how they adapt to their surroundings.
  • Scientists work to pinpoint the specific compounds that contribute to an organism’s survival; those compounds can lead to medicines to treat diseases in humans, including certain types of cancers.
  • Coral reefs are the origin of the drug Ara-C, which is the backbone of chemotherapy for leukemia and lymphoma. Scientists have even found promising marine-based medicines for the treatment of strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • 75% of our coral reefs are threatened by things like overfishing, coastal development, pollution and climate change.
Take Action!
  • Go on vacation. Seeing coral reefs will help you connect better with protecting it. You can also join a reef clean up event, practice reef-friendly snorkeling (no touching!), or just learn more about this fascinating eco-system.
  • Adopt a reef. The Nature Conservancy raises funds for important coral reef projects in The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Palau and Papua New Guinea. Adopt a coral reef in these places and you could be saving a life.

We’re Accountable

The Nature Conservancy makes careful use of your support.

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