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 (2,769 Responses)
  1. Judi Rushdan

    This website was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Many thanks!

    https://adengine.old.rt.ru/go.jsp?to=https://orangecountybarber.com/

    May 27, 2021 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. ocrv paint and service

    https://clixgalore.com/NoRedirect.aspx?ID=11387&AfID=225385&BID=111815&ER=1&RU=https://ocrv.world/conventional-trailer-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    May 27, 2021 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Flooring Near Me

    https://www.leroymerlin.com.br/logout?redirect=https://ocrv.vip/rv-frame-repair-near-me

    May 27, 2021 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Countertops Orange County

    I could not refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!

    https://adengine.old.rt.ru/go.jsp?to=https://

    May 27, 2021 at 10:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Digital Marketing Consultant Near Me

    http://members.adlandpro.com/adlandredir.aspx?returnurl=https://rankemailads.com

    May 27, 2021 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. rv repair santa fe

    bookmarked!!, I really like your blog!

    http://tracing.uniview.com/tracking/?u=guilhen@ecare-security.com&msg=2E812EB8.E26C.4678.8716.95660E17C842.0007.001e38656675d537.3nn6otyh@uniview.com&url=https://ocrvcenter.net/rv-repair-shop-dana-point-california

    May 27, 2021 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. orange shop near me

    I like it whenever people come together and share ideas. Great website, stick with it!

    http://cies.xrea.jp/jump/?https://ocrvart.com/rv-repair-shop-westminster-california

    May 27, 2021 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Slide Out Orange County

    http://egov2.miamigov.com/Office_of_Auditor_General/admin/Portal/LinkClick.aspx?tabid=1&table=Announcements&field=ItemID&id=98&link=https://ocrvexperts.com/medical-truck-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    May 27, 2021 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. curso de gestão de pessoas

    Legal! Ótimo conteúdo, com bom entendimento. Obrigada. 966905267

    https://metamusica.com.br

    May 27, 2021 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. couches orange county

    Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through many of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely pleased I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

    http://ecare.unicef.cn/edm/201208enews/url.php?url=https://ocrvshop.com/rv-repair-shop-temecula-california

    May 27, 2021 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. tausAffessy

    where to get tadalafil https://cttadalafil.com/ – best price usa tadalafil tadalafil order online no prescription buy generic cialis online with mastercard lowest price cialis

    May 27, 2021 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Bathroom Near Me

    https://surveys.montclair.edu/survey/preview.jsp?surveyid=1326825217719&url=https://ocrvluxurycoaches.com/prostar-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    May 27, 2021 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. cursos de ingles online

    I really liked your site. Thanks for the information. 623675408 9720080

    https://www.METAMUSICA.COM.BR/

    May 27, 2021 at 17:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RV Slide Out Riverside

    https://surveys.montclair.edu/survey/preview.jsp?surveyid=1326825217719&url=https://ocrv.org/monaco-rv-collision-repair-paint-shop-near-me-orange-county

    May 27, 2021 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Dent Repair Riverside

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after going through many of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!

    https://eao.rtrs.ru/go/?q=https://theocrv.com/rv-repair-shop-baldwin-park-california

    May 27, 2021 at 18:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. curso manutenção de celular

    Congratulations on the content. Interesting. 605049248 2922993

    https://metamusica.com.br

    May 27, 2021 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. rv roof repair service near me

    I seriously love your site.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you develop this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m planning to create my own blog and would love to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Appreciate it!

    http://register.scotland.org/Subscribe/WidgetSignup?url=https://ocrv.art/utility-van-collision-repair-paint-shop-near-me-orange-county

    May 27, 2021 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Tritreviewifind

    https://apcalisetadalafil.com/ side effects for tadalafil buy generic cialis online with mastercard where to buy tadalafil on line tadalafil side effects

    May 27, 2021 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. rv step repair

    http://sportadmin.se/SSO/?REF=https://ocrv.biz/refrigerator-truck-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    May 27, 2021 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Used Forklifts

    I love reading an article that will make men and women think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!

    https://www.tanken.ne.jp/cate/fhhanpu/rl_out.cgi?id=ox8448&url=https://forkliftswildwestlifttrucks.com/telehandler-forklift-repair-orange-county-california

    May 27, 2021 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. rv doctor near me

    http://www.webclap.com/php/jump.php?sa=t&url=https://ocrv.org/passenger-bus-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    May 27, 2021 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. interior repair near me

    I'd like to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this blog. I really hope to check out the same high-grade blog posts from you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal website now 😉

    https://www.zlatestranky.cz/Cookies/Disagree?returnUrl=https://ocrv.pro/rv-repair-shop-fullerton-california

    May 27, 2021 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. how to repair rv plumbing

    http://nudewwedivas.forumcommunity.net/m/ext.php?url=https://ocrvmotorcoaches.com/school-bus-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    May 27, 2021 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. rv repair places near me

    This website truly has all of the information and facts I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    https://asi.ru/bitrix/rk.php?goto=https://ocrv.org/rv-repair-shop-san-dimas-california

    May 27, 2021 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Parts Near Me

    http://sc.hkexnews.hk/TuniS/ocrvmotorcoaches.com/service-truck-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    May 27, 2021 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Lighting Los Angeles

    http://oraung02.iamgold.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrv.life/rv-ac-repair-near-me

    May 28, 2021 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Generator Los Angeles

    https://coyoacan.cdmx.gob.mx/link?ruta=https://csn-news.com/archives/95984

    May 28, 2021 at 01:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Toilets California

    /

    May 28, 2021 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Internet Marketing Agencies

    I'm excited to uncover this great site. I wanted to thank you for ones time just for this wonderful read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to see new information in your blog.

    https://www.andreuworld.com/product/configurator?url=https://cdaseo.com

    May 28, 2021 at 02:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. custom shops near me

    http://www.rses.org/search/link.aspx?id=3721119&q=http://treatment.depression.help/maryland/snow-hill/worcester-county-health-department-snow-hill-6040-public-landing-road-snow-hill-maryland/

    May 28, 2021 at 02:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. rv air conditioner service near me

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the challenges. It was definitely informative. Your website is very useful. Many thanks for sharing!

    /

    May 28, 2021 at 03:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Social Media Marketing Agencies

    http://www.themza.com/redirect.php?r=cdaseo.com/

    May 28, 2021 at 04:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Tires Riverside

    http://www.webclap.com/php/jump.php?url=https://elliott1v3q1.ziblogs.com/3490537/helping-the-others-realize-the-advantages-of-rv-service-near-me

    May 28, 2021 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Social Media Marketing Companies

    https://www.faseb.org/pdfviewer?loadthis=https://cdaseo.com/

    May 28, 2021 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Sound System Orange County

    http://paper.li/SharonLaMothe/1411841847?read=https://strivu.com/strivu18-fall-workshop-sign-up/

    May 28, 2021 at 06:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. rv furniture center.com

    Good day! I simply want to offer you a big thumbs up for your great info you've got here on this post. I'll be coming back to your web site for more soon.

    https://iaccmeetings.com/Redirect.aspx?destination=https://johnvorhees.com/gbook/gbook.php?page=836

    May 28, 2021 at 06:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Solar Panels Systems Orange County

    I blog frequently and I seriously appreciate your information. This article has really peaked my interest. I will take a note of your blog and keep checking for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.

    /

    May 28, 2021 at 06:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Content Marketing Consultant

    I blog frequently and I seriously thank you for your content. Your article has truly peaked my interest. I will take a note of your site and keep checking for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

    http://yellowpages.morningsun.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.cdaseo.com

    May 28, 2021 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. RV Tires Riverside

    https://dir.tetsumania.net/search/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=3267&url=https://hireyourbossinc.com/1kweek-without-selling-in-minutes-daily-no-way-review/

    May 28, 2021 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Google Marketing Companies

    https://rosreestr.gov.ru/bitrix/redirect.php?event1=&event2=&event3=&goto=https://cdaseo.com

    May 28, 2021 at 07:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Internet Marketing Agency

    Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to generate a very good articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I procrastinate a whole lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.

    https://www.kyoto-osaka.com/search/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=9143&url=https://www.rankemailads.com

    May 28, 2021 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. rv refurbishing business

    After looking at a number of the blog posts on your site, I seriously appreciate your way of writing a blog. I book-marked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my web site as well and tell me how you feel.

    http://iacconline.org/Redirect.aspx?destination=protectstone.fr/component/k2/item/1 .html?start=647780

    May 28, 2021 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. furniture repair stores near me

    Aw, this was a very nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to make a great article… but what can I say… I hesitate a lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

    https://www.datum.tv/ra.asp?url=http://denistunca.com/human-design-aligned-life/

    May 28, 2021 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Countertops California

    http://guru-pon.jp/search/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=107&url=https://nxbiz.com.au/index.php/services-details-1/item/1-plans-for-growing-businesses?limit=10&start=756380

    May 28, 2021 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. travel trailer floor repair videos

    Howdy! This blog post couldn’t be written much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to forward this information to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

    /

    May 28, 2021 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Social Media Marketing Market

    You've made some really good points there. I looked on the net for more info about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.

    https://www.fanslations.azurewebsites.net/release/out/takami-no-kago-chapter-39/11534/?url=https://www.masternearme.com

    May 28, 2021 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Social Media Marketing Agencies Near Me

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is something not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I stumbled across this during my search for something regarding this.

    http://www.e-tsuyama.com/cgi-bin/jump.cgi?jumpto=http://online-website-marketing.com3aqbN3t

    May 28, 2021 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. truck shop of orange

    /

    May 28, 2021 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Remodeling California

    https://remontmix.ru/out?t=1&mid=19521&url=https://loosers.in/profile/KathyBurde/

    May 28, 2021 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Local Marketing Near Me

    When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a means you can remove me from that service? Appreciate it!

    http://remontmix.ru/out?t=1&mid=19521&url=reviewnearme.com/

    May 28, 2021 at 16:04 | 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 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53

Leave a Reply to chloroquine hydrochloride


 

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.