Cancer ‘is purely man-made’ say scientists.
Cancer is a man-made disease fuelled by the excesses of modern life, a study of ancient remains has found.
Tumours were rare until recent times when pollution and poor diet became issues, the review of mummies, fossils and classical literature found.
A greater understanding of its origins could lead to treatments for the disease, which claims more than 150,000 lives a year in the UK.
Scientists found no signs of cancer in their extensive study of mummies apart from one isolated case
Michael Zimmerman, a visiting professor at Manchester University, said: ‘In an ancient society lacking surgical intervention, evidence of cancer should remain in all cases.
‘The virtual absence of malignancies in mummies must be interpreted as indicating their rarity in antiquity, indicating that cancer-causing factors are limited to societies affected by modern industrialisation.’
To trace cancer’s roots, Professor Zimmerman and colleague Rosalie David analysed possible references to the disease in classical literature and scrutinised signs in the fossil record and in mummified bodies.
Despite slivers of tissue from hundreds of Egyptian mummies being rehydrated and placed under the microscope, only one case of cancer has been confirmed.
This is despite experiments showing that tumours should be even better preserved by mummification than healthy tissues.
Dismissing the argument that the ancient Egyptians didn’t live long enough to develop cancer, the researchers pointed out that other age-related disease such as hardening of the arteries and brittle bones died occur.
Fossil evidence of cancer is also sparse, with scientific literature providing a few dozen, mostly disputed, examples in animal fossil, the journal Nature Reviews Cancer reports.