Cancer is man made

Found this article, at the face of it seems like bad science. please refute this, or indeed argue for it.
From University of Manchester : link

Heres a copy of the article:

Scientists suggest that cancer is man-made

14 Oct 2010

Cancer is a modern, man-made disease caused by environmental factors such as pollution and diet, a study review by University of Manchester scientists has strongly suggested.
Their study of remains and literature from ancient Egypt and Greece and earlier periods – carried out at Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology and published in Nature Reviews Cancer – includes the first histological diagnosis of cancer in an Egyptian mummy.

Finding only one case of the disease in the investigation of hundreds of Egyptian mummies, with few references to cancer in literary evidence, proves that cancer was extremely rare in antiquity. The disease rate has risen massively since the Industrial Revolution, in particular childhood cancer – proving that the rise is not simply due to people living longer.

Professor Rosalie David, at the Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “In industrialised societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare. 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.”

. . .

It has been suggested that the short life span of individuals in antiquity precluded the development of cancer. Although this statistical construct is true, individuals in ancient Egypt and Greece did live long enough to develop such diseases as atherosclerosis, Paget’s disease of bone, and osteoporosis, and, in modern populations, bone tumours primarily affect the young.

. . .

She concluded: “Yet again extensive ancient Egyptian data, along with other data from across the millennia, has given modern society a clear message – cancer is man-made and something that we can and should address.”

Yeah. I could take hundreds of corpses right now, and find very few cases of cancer. This paragraph right here makes me take the whole premise with a grain of salt.

Would childhood leukemia show up in mummies?

Nonsense. Cancer is as old as multicellular organisms, the damage visible in some fossils.

yea wiki sucks for a cite but so does that story, and wiki is atleast cited, so…

I’ll just point out that internal organs were removed in the process of mummification, that would include any and all tumors in or around those organs.

Well, that’s a science reporters take on some actual science being done someplace. A lot usually gets lost in the translation. Also, I thought it was more or less a given that modern pollution causes more cancer. It’s actually still an unresolved question?


Do not quote entire articles, violating Fair Use laws of copyright.

[ /Moderating ]

These types of claims just confuse the hell out me. It is like a blimp made up of a million balloons. Where do you start popping it to bring it down?

The quote above is one place to start. Of course it isn’t true and easy to give counter-examples for. Aflotoxin comes from grains and is a potent carcinogen as one example there is no need to get too detailed here. It brings up the question of what is natural as opposed to man-made (supernatural?) yet again. Tobacco and alcohol cause cancer. They are processed products from plants but only very simply. Skin cancer is often caused by excessive sun exposure and I don’t think anyone can say that isn’t natural. The statement above is false no matter how you cut it. There is room to draw graphs about the incidence of certain types of cancer from things like highly manufactured products but people didn’t invent cancer and we are part of the natural environment ourselves. Even if you wipe out all of modern technology, charring food can cause a cancer risk.

In any case, it isn’t that surprising that it is harder to diagnose people in people that have been dead for hundreds or thousands of years with cancer as opposed to people laying in a hospital with labs and other cutting edge equipment today.

I would not be so quick to dimiss it, Professor Rosalie David specializes in the biomedical study of ancient Egyptian mummies and the University of Manchester is a very reputable institution (ranked only behind Cambridge and Oxford in the UK in terms of research).

Reputation is good in science but not everything. Lots of scientists have gone off the deep-end with theories at certain points. Harvard had (has?) a firm believer in alien abductions on its faculty.

Let’s assume it’s true. What do we do about it, revert to a pre-industrial lifestyle?

It’s a study by two professors who are experts in this particular area (the biomedical study of ancient Egyptian mummies), my point is it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand with cites from Wikipedia.

The basic premise that the prevalence of cancer is greatly affected by modern enviormental factors doesn’t seem too far-fetched and they have produced evidence for this hypothesis and that particualr area comes from the area where their expertise lie.

I’m not saying I agree, or even hold a definite opinion, just that the results of their study are being dismissed awfully quick here. Also the fact that she was invited to address a national conference of oncologists seems to suggest that those in the know do not think she’s gone off the deepend.

Infact I was already vaguely aware of this study as as a ‘news story’ this is a few months old and it did make the national press (at least over here in the uK).

A report on the mummy-cancer study in the New York Times had other perspectives on the claim that “cancer is a man-made disease caused by our modern lifestyles”. The article noted the rarity of cancer discovered in fossilized/mummified remains, commenting further on the limited material available for analysis and complicating factors (like the loss of soft tissues harboring the vast majority of cancers).

*"Given the small sample size (of ancient remains), just how much cancer should scientists expect to see?

To get a rough idea, Tony Waldron, a paleopathologist at University College London, analyzed British mortality reports from 1901 to 1905 — a period late enough to ensure reasonably good records and early enough to avoid skewing the data with, for example, the spike in lung cancer caused in later decades by the popularity of cigarettes.

Taking into account variations in life span and the likelihood that different malignancies will spread to bone, he estimated that in an “archaeological assemblage” one might expect cancer in less than 2 percent of male skeletons and 4 to 7 percent of female skeletons.

Andreas G. Nerlich and colleagues in Munich tried out the prediction on 905 skeletons from two ancient Egyptian necropolises. With the help of X-rays and CT scans they diagnosed five cancers — right in line with Dr. Waldron’s expectations. And as his statistics predicted, 13 cancers were found among 2,547 remains buried in an ossuary in southern Germany between A.D. 1400 and 1800."*

Evidence is heavily in favor of there always having been cancer in man. Fortunately (?) people in antiquity had much shorter life spans and far less chance to die from cancer as opposed to war, malnutrition, infection and infectious plagues.

I can’t remember the exact number, but my cell biology professor in college said something like 2-5% of DNA is devoted to controlling cancer (aka mutated, unstopped cell growth).

If so then stopping cancer is something we’ve evolved to do. Having said that about 50-70% of cancer is due to poor dietary habits, lack of exercise and smoking. In pre-industrial societies diets were probably healthier in some ways (more vegetables, less red meat) and daily activity was a fact of life. Plus smoking wasn’t as common. So how much would that explain it?

Perhaps our good friend and esteemed poster, Dr. Grisanti, could shed some light on this?

(Bolding mine) Cite?

dear God please NO.


If it was so healthy why were diet and exercise related diseases almost universal?

ooooooooooooh. So close. While your rebuttal was stinging in its accuracy and depth it isn’t correct.