“Cancer found in mummies is very rare,” say professors Rosalie David and Michael Zimmerman from the University of Manchester. Their investigation of hundreds of Egyptian mummies found only one case of cancer. Searching for evidence of cancer in fossils and ancient medical texts, they uncovered only five cases of tumors, mostly benign. They conclude that cancer among ancient people “was extremely rare. There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle.”
“Cancer appears to be a modern disease created by modern life.”
The ancient Egyptians were very adept at the use of herbs and drugs for disease treatments and made meticulous notes for every physical specialty of their day. During the following centuries, there were many fathers of medicine that recorded human maladies and treatments, building on the foundation of the great Egyptian physicians. The scarcity of references to cancer in ancient literature seems to confirm the rarity of cancer in olden times. But since then, cancer rates have risen almost exponentially, beginning with the Industrial Revolution. This is particularly true with childhood cancer, proving that the rise is not simply due to people living longer.
Professors Zimmerman and David determined that the average life expectancy of the mummies they inspected was 25 to 50 years. Critics of this modern cancer disease hypothesis suggest that the short life span of individuals in antiquity precluded the development of cancer. Although this statistical construct is true, individuals in ancient Egypt and Greece did live long enough to develop age-related conditions like atherosclerosis, Paget’s disease of bone, and osteoporosis with childhood cancers never mentioned.
Another argument is that tumors may have disintegrated over the millennia, making it impossible for the scientists to come to their conclusion to which Professor Zimmerman pointed out that his work indicates that tumors actually are better preserved than normal tissue. Zimmerman states “in an ancient society lacking surgical intervention, evidence of cancer should remain in all cases.”
History of cancer
The oldest description of cancer dates around 3000 BC in an Egyptian textbook describing eight cases of supposed tumors of the breast that were treated by cauterization. The origin of the word cancer comes from Hippocrates (460-370 BC), who used the terms carcinos and carcinoma to describe non-ulcer and ulcer-forming tumors. Galen (130-200 AD), used the word oncos (Greek for swelling) to describe tumors.
Breast cancer is mentioned around 1650 by two doctors in Holland who also wrongly concluded that cancer was contagious. Further records of breast and other cancers did not appear for another 100 years with the first modern descriptions of operations for breast and other cancers by the famous Scottish surgeon John Hunter. The first incidents of nasal cancer among snuff users was recorded in 1761, scrotal cancer in chimney sweeps in 1775, and Hodgkin’s disease in 1832.
Cancer is now the second leading cause of death in the US, right after heart disease and just before medical and pharmaceutical deaths. Overall, a person has about a one in two chance of being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. The World Health Organization notes that about one-third of cancer deaths can be prevented, and that tobacco use is the single most important risk factor. Numerous studies have found an association between diet and cancer.
Is cancer a man-made phenomenon? Whether it is or not, it would be prudent for us to limit the toxins we are exposed to that are within our control, like preservatives, food additives, industrial pollution, car emissions, household chemicals, toxic drugs and other sources. We are responsible for our own health and cannot afford to wait for science to ferret out the answers for us.
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