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.
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.
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.
Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers? I'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I've worked hard on. Any suggestions?
An interesting discussion is worth comment. I believe that you
should write more about this subject matter, it may not be a taboo subject but
generally people do not talk about these subjects.
To the next! Kind regards!!
Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe this website needs a great deal more attention. Iíll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the advice!
After I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment. Is there an easy method you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!
After exploring a number of the blog posts on your website, I seriously appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I bookmarked it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my website too and tell me what you think.
Good post. I'm going through a few of these issues as well..
Having read this I believed it was extremely informative. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this article together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!
Coi Trực Tiếp Viettel Vs Tỉnh Bình Dương Tại V League 2021 Ở Kênh Nào? keo bong daĐội tuyển Việt Nam chỉ muốn một kết trái hòa có bàn thắng để lần loại hai góp mặt tại World Cup futsal. Nhưng, để làm được như vậy
This is a topic that's near to my heart... Cheers! Exactly where are your contact details though?
Can I just say what a comfort to discover somebody that actually knows what they're discussing on the net. You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people should look at this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised you're not more popular because you surely possess the gift.
Good article! We are linking to this particularly great post on our website. Keep up the great writing.
This page definitely has all of the information and facts I wanted concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.
Can I simply just say what a comfort to uncover someone who really knows what they're talking about online. You definitely know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people ought to read this and understand this side of your story. I can't believe you are not more popular since you most certainly have the gift.
I was more than happy to discover this site. I wanted to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely appreciated every bit of it and i also have you book marked to look at new things on your website.
Xoilac Tv Trực Tiếp Bóng Đá 888 betĐội tuyển futsal nước ta đã có được một trận đấu đồng ý được trước phe đối lập đầy mức độ mạnh Lebanon. Kết trái Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu vs Bình Phước thời điểm hôm nay 18h00 ngày 5/5, Hạng nhất nước ta.
Hi, I do think this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may revisit yet again since i have book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.
You're so awesome! I don't suppose I've truly read a single thing like that before. So great to find someone with some genuine thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that is needed on the internet, someone with some originality!
After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there a means you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!
Hi! I just wish to give you a huge thumbs up for the great information you have right here on this post. I'll be coming back to your blog for more soon.
This page truly has all of the information I needed about this subject and didnít know who to ask.
Spot on with this write-up, I truly believe that this site needs far more attention. Iíll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the information!
Thể Thao 247cách chơi bên trong casino campuchiaLiverpool là đội bóng nhận ít thẻ nhất ở Premier League mùa này và đang đứng trước cơ hội đạt giải thưởng Fair Play ở mùa giải thứ 5 liên tục. Sau Khi thăng hạng 96 trái đất, đội tuyển Việt Nam đã lọt group hạt tương đương số 2 vòng loại World Cup 2022 khu vực vực châu Á.
I blog often and I truly thank you for your information. This great article has really peaked my interest. I will book mark your blog and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.
Hi, I do think your blog could possibly be having browser compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Aside from that, great blog!
Excellent blog you have here.. Itís difficult to find quality writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!
This web site certainly has all of the info I needed about this subject and didnít know who to ask.
Trực Tiếp Bóng Đá Việt Nam Vs Lebanon. Xem Truc Tiep Bong Da. Futsal Việt NamvaoroiĐây có lẽ là ngôi trường hợp “của đi thay nhân viên" khá như ý đối cùng với Ben McLemore. Thiếu chút nữa tay ném của Los Angeles Lakers đã có được thể gặp hiểm họa nguy hiểm. Cập nhật kết quả trận Việt Nam vs Lebanon nằm trong play-off vòng loại Futsal World Cup 2021.
Tin Tức, Sự Khiếu Nại Liên Quan Tiền Đến Trực Tiếp Bóng Đá Nữ mobifone khuyến mãiĐội tuyển chọn futsal Việt Nam đã được một trận đấu đồng ý được trước đối thủ cạnh tranh đầy mức độ mạnh Lebanon. Kết quả Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu vs Bình Phước hôm nay 18h00 ngày 5/5, Hạng nhất nước ta.
I was able to find good information from your articles.