Is cancer a product of modern times? In a recent summary in Nature Reviews Cancer, the authors state that it is likely that cancer was rare in ancient times, and may be a product of our toxic, industrialized environment. From the review article, the authors do discuss possible problems with identifying cancers in ancient tissues, but largely conclude that we could reasonably identify lesions if they were there.
Although the palaeopathological diagnosis of cancer is subject to many difficulties, we propose that the minimal diagnostic evidence for cancer in ancient remains indicates the rarity of the disease in antiquity.
An article regarding the research (from the DailyMail) quotes one of the authors, Dr Rosalie David:
‘So it has to be down to pollution and changes to diet and lifestyle.
‘Data from across the millennia has given modern society a clear message – cancer is man-made and something that we can and should address.’
From the oil in the gulf to the arsenic/mercury in the toxic red sludge released into the Danube, it shouldn’t be too astounding that we are poisoning ourselves. The sad thing is that it appears we have not just created disease in humans, we are seeing cancers, or mysterious deaths in animals out in the wild: Baby wright whales dying mysteriously in record numbers, sea lions developing cancer, elephants dying from unknown causes, and dead sea turtles washing ashore.
Cleaning up the environment should be our global health priority.