There has long been a saying in the eastern provinces of Russia: ‘Cancer is a western invention.’ Now thanks to a British study, this saying has been proved true, and those babushkas (grandmothers) so fond of the saying can say ‘I told you so.’
Researchers at the University of Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology reached the conclusion that cancer is 100 percent a man-made disease, and that it is caused by modern day phenomena like pollution, chemicals, stress and dietary intake.
Cancer existed in the ancient world but it was extremely rare, affecting only one person out of hundreds, unlike today when it affects one in every two people in the Western world.
These findings mirror what babushkas have been saying forever. They would use the famous phrase to warn people against eating Western style fast food, microwave meals, or living a sedentary life in front of computer screens and TV.
The British study analysed remains and literature from ancient Egypt and Greece, as well as earlier periods, and the study, published in the journal Nature Reviews Cancer, noted that researchers found only a single occurrence of cancer while investigating hundreds of Egyptian mummies. In addition, they found very few references to the disease in period literature, which indicates that cancer cases were extremely rare during the period.
However, after the Industrial Revolution, cancer rates went through the roof in Western societies, and in particular among children, which proves that the explosion in cases is not simply down to people living longer lives now.
“In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare,” said Prof. Rosalie David, of the Faculty of Life Sciences. “There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle.”
“The important thing about our study is that it gives a historical perspective to this disease,” she continued. “We can make very clear statements on the cancer rates in societies because we have a full overview. We have looked at millennia, not one hundred years, and have masses of data.”