home
RSS
How the ancient world dealt with cancer
October 14th, 2010
06:15 PM ET

How the ancient world dealt with cancer

Cancer is widespread today, but it doesn't appear to have been in the ancient world. Why not?

Researchers are learning more about the history of cancer and how civilizations have treated it.

A study in the journal Nature Reviews Cancer suggests that cancer has become a more common disease only recently, because of modern lifestyle.

Rosalie David, professor at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and Michael Zimmerman, professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, explored the evidence of cancer in the fossil record of early humans, in ancient Egypt and in ancient Greece. They argue that modern carcinogens - such as tobacco and pollution - may have contributed to the apparent rise in cancer in the last several hundred years.

However, there are many reasons why this is a tenuous conclusion: No one can conduct a survey of ancient populations. The risk of cancer rises with age, and people only started living longer more recently. Cancer is also highly genetic. To say that pollution has helped make cancer prevalent is highly controversial, said James Olson, historian at Sam Houston State University in Texas.

But certainly smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise all contribute to cancer in the modern world, Olson said.

Still, the paper makes some interesting points about the historical record of cancer, he said.

There are very few indications of cancer in early human remains, and possibilities that have been found have been disputed, the analysis said. In Egypt, out of hundreds of mummies only one case of cancer has been confirmed: Zimmerman's experiments on modern mummified tissue suggest that mummification does not destroy evidence of the malignancy - he and colleagues found colorectal cancer in a mummy.

The ancient Egyptians wrote about many magical spells they used to treat cancer-like illnesses, a few of which are described in papyri. Here's one particularly gruesome remedy for what may have been cancer of the uterus: Break up a stone in water, leave it overnight, and then pour it into the vagina. Another treatment described was fumigation: The patient would sit over something that was burning. Still, it's not certain that any of the maladies described were actually cancer, David said.

Ancient Greece first identified cancer as a specific illness, the analysis said. It appears that the Greeks had a better knowledge and awareness of cancer than their predecessors, which is a more likely explanation than an increase in cancer, David and Zimmerman said.

In Ancient Greece, cancer gets referenced in the Hippocratic Corpus- texts said to have been written by the "father of medicine" Hippocrates between 410 and 360 B.C.
These texts say that an excess of black bile causes cancer. "Hippocrates used the carcinos (crab) and carcinoma to desribe a range of tumours and swellings," David and Zimmerman wrote. The Roman physician Galen of Pergamum said around 200 A.D. that this was because some cancers appeared crab-like.

Ancient Greeks knew that a mastectomy would help a patient with a lump in her breast, but they also recognized that cancer can recur and spread to other parts of the body.

"They recommended an unbelievable variety of potions, and plant extracts, and combinations to see if they couldn’t kill the cancer in other places," Olson said. "None of those worked."

It can be argued that since life expectancy was lower in the ancient world, most people didn't live long enough to develop cancer, David said. But the lack of evidence of childhood bone cancer suggests that perhaps overall rates were lower as well, she said.

From about 500 to 1500 A.D. there was little advancement in understanding cancer, the analysis said. Then, in the 17th century, Wilhelm Fabricus described operations for breast and other cancers. Cancer rates appear to have increased since the Industrial Revolution, David said. In the past 200 years, reports of specific cancers such as scrotal cancer and Hodgkin's disease have emerged.

Here's an overview from the American Cancer Society of the history of cancer.


soundoff (2,134 Responses)
  1. RV Repair

    I blog often and I really appreciate your content. The article has really peaked my interest. I will book mark your website and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed too.

    https://www.fms.treas.gov/fmsweb/disclaimer.jsp?ciURL=https://www.impactnews.in/shiv-sena-snubs-bjp-again-welcomes-priyanka-gandhi-vadras-entry-into-politics/

    June 15, 2021 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Repairs Nearby

    This is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate informationÖ Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!

    http://treasury.gov/cgi-bin/redirect.cgi/?http://game-mun.com/forum/index.php?topic=700.1210

    June 15, 2021 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Repairs Nearby

    Your style is really unique compared to other people I've read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this web site.

    https://www.aarss.com/redir.php?siteref=&aarsslink=https://ocrvcenter.com/fleet-truck-collision-repair-shop-near-me/

    June 15, 2021 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Repair Fountain Valley

    This blog was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Many thanks!

    http://autocar.co.nz/Redirect.aspx?destination=www.ocrvcenter.com/playstar-collision-repair-shop-near-me/

    June 15, 2021 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Nearby RV Repair

    Good article! We are linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the good writing.

    http://www.secure.duoservers.com/?lang=en&s_id=123179&rdomain=www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-lighting-repair-near-me/&action=order

    June 15, 2021 at 17:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. RV Repair Seal Beach

    http://lifestream.tv/players/mocd.php?c=secebenezer&access=1&url=ocrvcenter.com/rv-upgrades-near-me

    June 15, 2021 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. vtv3 hôm nay

    Kết Trái Futsal Việt Nam Vs Lebanontruyen hinh truc tuyen todaytv vtc7Theo thể thức thi đấu, đội thắng ở cặp đấu này sẽ giành tấm vé đến Lithuania vào ngày hội bóng đá lớn nhất thế giới cho futsal. Tuyển futsal Việt Nam bước vào trận play-off lượt đi tranh vé dự play-off World Cup 2021 với sự tự tin. Tuy vậy, HLV Phạm Minh Giang bày tỏ, toàn đội không ngán Lebanon tuy vậy sẽ tìm cách để khắc chế sức mạnh của đối thủ bởi trên băng ghế huấn luyện là nhà cầm quân Ramiro Lopez, người từng dẫn dắt futsal Tây Ban Nha.|Dựa vào lịch tranh tài, bạn hoàn toàn có thể chuẩn bị xếp công việc

    https://arubaeducation.info/detail/vtv3-k-56625.html

    June 15, 2021 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Repair San Clemente California

    https://fireprotection.org.nz/Redirect.aspx?destination=ocrvcenter.com/rv-remodeling-near-me

    June 15, 2021 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Repair

    I needed to thank you for this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you postÖ

    https://cse.google.hu/url?q=https://tvtropes.org

    June 15, 2021 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Camper Repair Shop Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing issues with your RSS. I donít know the reason why I can't subscribe to it. Is there anybody else having the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!

    http://dol.deliver.ifeng.com/c?z=ifeng&la=0&si=2&cg=1&c=1&ci=2&or=7549&l=28704&bg=28703&b=37275&u=https://crazy4smiths.com/smiths-beauty-aisle-catalina-deal/

    June 15, 2021 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Repair Huntington Beach

    https://clients1.google.co.ls/url?q=https://omicsonline.org

    June 15, 2021 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Repair Santa Ana

    https://fcviktoria.cz/media_show.asp?id=2924&id_clanek=2467&media=0&type=1&url=https://ocrvcenter.com/rv-fiberglass-repair-near-me/

    June 15, 2021 at 22:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RV Repair Huntington Beach

    https://www.thenfljerseychinacheap.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=https://ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-rancho-palos-verdes-california/

    June 15, 2021 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me

    https://www.arakhne.org/redirect.php?url=ocrvcenter.com/heavy-truck-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    June 15, 2021 at 23:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Repair Shops Nearby

    I quite like reading through an article that can make men and women think. Also, many thanks for permitting me to comment!

    http://mobile.vhda.com/director.aspx?target=https://ocrvcenter.com/motorhome-fabrication-repair-near-me/

    June 16, 2021 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. truc tiep vtv3

    Kết Trái Futsal Việt Nam Vs Lebanonxem truc tiếp bong da trên truyền hình k+ pmTheo thể thức thi đấu, đội thắng ở cặp đấu này sẽ giành tấm vé đến Lithuania vào ngày hội bóng đá lớn nhất thế giới mang đến futsal. Tuyển futsal Việt Nam bước vào trận play-off lượt đi tranh vé dự play-off World Cup 2021 với sự tự tin. Tuy vậy, HLV Phạm Minh Giang bày tỏ, toàn đội không ngán Lebanon song sẽ tìm cách để khắc chế sức mạnh của đối thủ bởi bên trên băng ghế huấn luyện là nhà cầm quân Ramiro Lopez, người từng dẫn dắt futsal Tây Ban Nha.|Dựa vào lịch tranh tài, bạn rất có thể sắp xếp việc làm

    https://rucyprus.net/detail/xem-truc-tiep-bong-da-k-cong-38425.html

    June 16, 2021 at 01:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Repair California

    When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I receive four emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Many thanks!

    https://www.dmca.com/Protection/Status.aspx?ID=edc817fd-d796-4c84-abb8-d1cb5b2e3719&refurl=http://livecaroline.com/new2/

    June 16, 2021 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Nearby RV Repairs

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on this. And he actually ordered me lunch due to the fact that I found it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this matter here on your blog.

    http://www.client.paltalk.com/client/webapp/client/External.wmt?url=ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-lancaster-california/

    June 16, 2021 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Nearest RV Repair

    http://www.etracker.com/lnkcnt.php?et=qPKGYV&url=https://ingenieurleistungenreiter.de/index.php?option=com_phocaguestbook&view=phocaguestbook&id=1&Itemid=4&t=60&limitstart=64740

    June 16, 2021 at 02:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Repair California

    This site certainly has all the info I needed about this subject and didnít know who to ask.

    http://www.astro.wisc.edu/?URL=http://www.forum.nevadastriperclub.org/showthread.php?tid=10452

    June 16, 2021 at 02:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Nearby RV Repairs

    This is a topic that's close to my heart... Cheers! Exactly where are your contact details though?

    https://espqa.memorialhermann.org/url?q=www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-inspection-near-me

    June 16, 2021 at 03:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Nearby RV Repair

    http://anonymz.com/?www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-interior-remodeling-near-me

    June 16, 2021 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Repair Mission Viejo

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that will make the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    https://westernalliancebancorporation.com/WALSpeedBump_All_Others?target=ocrvcenter.com/fire-truck-collision-repair-shop-near-me/

    June 16, 2021 at 04:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    https://www.jimwrightonline.com/php/tcpdf_php4/serverData.php?a%5B%5D=<a+href=http://ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-noho-arts-district-california

    June 16, 2021 at 04:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Repair Near Me Now

    https://bcdairy.ca/dairyfarmers/index?URL=http://ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-huntington-park-california/

    June 16, 2021 at 06:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Repair Fountain Valley

    I used to be able to find good information from your articles.

    https://www.aesham.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.ocrvcenter.com/garbage-truck-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    June 16, 2021 at 06:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Repair San Clemente California

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this article plus the rest of the site is really good.

    https://www.irwebcast.com/cgi-local/report/redirect.cgi?url=https://www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-dana-point-california

    June 16, 2021 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Leave a Reply to Maserati Lease Near Me


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.