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. rv supplies orange county

    http://ivb.energymeasurementproducts.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=oc-rv.com/

    June 11, 2021 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Solar Panels Systems California

    https://pixel.sitescout.com/iap/ca50fc23ca711ca4?cookieQ=1&r=https://rvmarketingexperts.com

    June 11, 2021 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sprinter Seat Belt Buckle Repair

    I have to thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this website. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts from you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own, personal website now 😉

    https://maps.google.tk/url?q=http://fleetservicesorangecounty.com

    June 11, 2021 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Camper Van Repair

    I really like it whenever people come together and share opinions. Great blog, keep it up!

    http://www.coachexpress.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.fleetservicesorangecounty.com/

    June 11, 2021 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Beds Los Angeles

    http://hj.longfencecomplaints.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvmotorsports.us/

    June 11, 2021 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Sprinter Mechanic Near Me

    http://cs.condenastdigital.com/to/?h1=to,cntelligence,2014-10-27,cta_pdf,Bain:GlobalLuxuryMarketShowsSteadyGrowth&url=https://fleetvehiclerepairshop.com

    June 11, 2021 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Luxury Repair Shop Near Me

    https://www.afn360.com/go-to-source.php?url=http://fleetservicerepairshop.com/

    June 11, 2021 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mercedes Sprinter Steering Gear Repair

    http://eye-clops.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=campervanrepairshop.com

    June 11, 2021 at 19:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Flooring Riverside

    http://www.newberrysblueberries.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrv.info/

    June 11, 2021 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Cargo Van Conversion Shop Near Me

    Excellent post! We are linking to this great post on our website. Keep up the good writing.

    http://ww17.go.getworksimple.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=fleettruckrepairshop.com

    June 11, 2021 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Ac Repair Service

    https://www.widgeo.net/SiteDoctor/health_check/report/316484/campervanrepairshop.com

    June 11, 2021 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Suspension Repair Sprinter Van

    http://www.academicamerican.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=sprinterrepairnearme.com/

    June 11, 2021 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. video ka

    Great info. Lucky me I found your website by accident (stumbleupon). I have saved as a favorite for later!

    http://www.seventhheavenusa.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrv.club

    June 11, 2021 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. rv solar installation near me

    Can I simply say what a relief to uncover somebody who genuinely knows what they're talking about over the internet. You definitely understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people have to look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you are not more popular because you certainly have the gift.

    http://www.netfaqs.com/linux/Mail/Opera7/New/Index.asp?bisp=ocrv.life/

    June 11, 2021 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Sprinter Turbocharger Repair

    http://nprnews.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.campervanrepairshop.com

    June 11, 2021 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. painting a horse trailer

    The very next time I read a blog, Hopefully it does not disappoint me just as much as this particular one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read, but I actually thought you would probably have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something that you can fix if you weren't too busy seeking attention.

    http://53938.measurementapi.com/serve?action=click&publisher_id=53938&site_id=92394&sub_campaign=g5e_com&url=http://ocrv.mobi/

    June 11, 2021 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Couches Near Me

    Good information. Lucky me I recently found your blog by chance (stumbleupon). I've saved it for later!

    http://danielvicario.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.ocrv.org

    June 12, 2021 at 04:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Transport Van Repair

    Itís hard to find experienced people on this topic, but you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks

    http://tax.grandcountyutah.net/grandcountyutah/list-detail.php?m=w2y2542464w2c4&url=http://sprintervanrepairnearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 04:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. phone repair ambulance

    https://domain-name.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.net

    June 12, 2021 at 04:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Van Mechanic Shop

    http://www.mahalodrinks.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.fleetservicerepairshop.com

    June 12, 2021 at 04:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Mercedes Sprinter Van Abs Repair

    Itís difficult to find well-informed people about this subject, but you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks

    http://www.minishooz.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=sprinterrepairnearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 04:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. dashboard repair shop near me

    I seriously love your website.. Great colors & theme. Did you develop this web site yourself? Please reply back as Iím hoping to create my own personal site and would love to find out where you got this from or what the theme is named. Thank you!

    http://accessmagazine.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrv.world/

    June 12, 2021 at 04:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Start Error Mercedes Sprinter Repair

    http://www.mynorthlandoil.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=fleetvehiclerepairshop.com

    June 12, 2021 at 05:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Popup Camper Repairs

    I love it when people come together and share ideas. Great blog, stick with it!

    http://exceptionalskincare.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=campervanrepairshop.com

    June 12, 2021 at 05:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Camping Trailer Repair Near Me

    http://webservices.icodes-us.com/transfer2.php?location=https://campervanrepairshop.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 05:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. perris collision

    https://www.adminer.org/redirect/?url=http://ocrvmotorsports.net

    June 12, 2021 at 06:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Windows Riverside

    http://www.coloradocomputing.cc/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvexperts.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 07:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Ram Luxury Van Repair Shop

    http://fordofcolumbus.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.boxtruckrepairshop.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 07:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Mercedes Sprinter Repair Panels

    Next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn't disappoint me just as much as this one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read through, but I really believed you would have something helpful to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.

    http://atterrogroup.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.sprintervanrepair.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Sprinter Resistor Repair

    Everything is very open with a clear clarification of the challenges. It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

    http://www.hometownholidaysatverrado.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=campervanrepairshop.com

    June 12, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. https://j-website.net

    Best view i have ever seen !

    https://maps.google.ne/url?q=https://j-website.net

    June 12, 2021 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. oiosdfcvdfasdsdsdfsfsdfsafsadf

    oiosdfcvdfasdsdsdfsfsdfsafsadf

    June 12, 2021 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Rory Sparks

    https://www.folkd.com/submit/sprintervanrepairshop.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Tova Karrels

    There's definately a great deal to know about this issue. I like all the points you made.

    http://landeng72a5.spintheblog.com/5257272/the-best-side-of-rv-body-shop

    June 12, 2021 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Jin Mikola

    http://www.bshare.cn/share?url=https://dallasr52m2.bloggazzo.com/4142071/the-greatest-guide-to-eye-doctor

    June 12, 2021 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Donte Herdon

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

    http://www.bshare.cn/share?url=https://rowand07z7.blogrenanda.com/5653541/5-simple-statements-about-internet-marketing-company-near-me-explained

    June 12, 2021 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Sheena Levario

    http://cruza36e4.designertoblog.com/31070972/personal-injury-lawyer-can-be-fun-for-anyone

    June 12, 2021 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Isa Rhude

    Good info. Lucky me I ran across your website by accident (stumbleupon). I've saved as a favorite for later!

    http://www.bshare.cn/share?url=https://rylang71w3.blog-gold.com/5590122/the-smart-trick-of-paint-services-that-nobody-is-discussing

    June 12, 2021 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Emerita Diddle

    http://help.dedecms.com/plus/player/index.php?url=https://travisf61t1.blog-a-story.com/5816288/a-simple-key-for-corporate-coaches-unveiled

    June 12, 2021 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. smoke shops near me

    Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to create a good articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I put things off a lot and don't manage to get anything done.

    http://silvermod.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=reviewnearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. midas near me

    I truly love your blog.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you develop this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as Iím trying to create my own blog and would love to know where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Cheers!

    http://mcclureandsons.com/Projects/FishHatcheries/Baker_Lake_Spawning_Beach_Hatchery.aspx?Returnurl=https://www.bulknearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. five guys near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I seriously believe this amazing site needs a lot more attention. Iíll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the information!

    http://velegal.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=bestservicenearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. jiffy lube near me

    http://www.small-foundation.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=bestservicenearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. grocery stores near me

    http://www.clean-dry.biz/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=quotenearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. boba near me

    Hi! I just wish to offer you a big thumbs up for your excellent info you've got right here on this post. I'll be returning to your website for more soon.

    http://mixturtle.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.quotenearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. barber near me

    There's definately a lot to find out about this topic. I love all the points you have made.

    http://brambleberry.us/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.bestservicenearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. liquor stores near me

    http://www.pediatricdermatologynewyork.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.masternearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. zika_hila bị vong theo

    Xem Trực Tiếp đá Bóngthe thao tvTheo 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, quý khách hoàn toàn có thể chuẩn bị xếp công việc

    https://questiontime.info/detail/7msportvn-105766.html

    June 12, 2021 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. dominos near me

    After checking out a handful of the articles on your site, I truly like your technique of writing a blog. I bookmarked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my website as well and tell me how you feel.

    https://go.xscript.ir/index.php?url=http://masternearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. carl's jr near me

    The next time I read a blog, Hopefully it won't disappoint me as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read through, but I really believed you'd have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you could fix if you weren't too busy seeking attention.

    https://www.telecom.uu.ru/?a%5B%5D=<a+href=https://bestservicenearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 18:54 | 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 Camping Trailer Repair 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.