is cancer a disease .. And is it modern


is cancer a disease? yes it is, but , however, It is not true that the cancer was born only in the modern era, although there is no doubt that in recent years there has been a substantial increase in the number of cases .

How widespread is the cancer problem?

Cancer is a real health problem in the populations of many countries. In the European Union alone, over 4.5 million people contracted cancer in the five-year period 1992-1997 ( 5-year prevalence rate ), and as many as 1.6 million were new cases diagnosed in 1997 (over 436 people per 100,000, rate of incidence ) .

What causes cancer ?

There are at least five main causes that can promote the development of cancer (carcinogens): hormones, radiation, chemicals, food factors and some viruses.

Cancer is caused by a number of factors among which are: the consequences for the body of lifestyle habits, the environment and genetic factors. For example, a person who abuses alcohol may suffer from liver tumors , and a worker who is in contact with asbestos may develop a particular lung tumor called mesothelioma. Asbestos and alcohol can cause cancer, they are called carcinogens.

But individual sensitivity to the effects of alcohol or asbestos may depend on the particular set of genes of the single person and how the genes are “expressed”. Fortunately, when a person is exposed to carcinogens he / she does not always develop cancer and, moreover, the organism puts in place mechanisms that defend it from cancer cells. But when cancer has a way to develop, it can progress without showing signs of itself for decades.

If exposure to a carcinogen (eg tobacco) is interrupted before the cancer has formed, it can be prevented from developing. Therefore anyone can reduce their risk of getting cancer by avoiding known risk factors , or trying to reduce their exposure to them. This is a particularly important recommendation for those people who have a higher inherited risk of getting cancer.

Just as some people unfortunately inherit a greater sensitivity to carcinogens, fortunately there is also the opposite case: there are individuals who inherit the ability to limit the damage due to potentially harmful factors .

This explains why for example some people (very few) smoke for life and do not get lung cancer. But you can not know in advance who enjoys this privilege, so the only way to reduce the risk of getting cancer is to avoid exposure to carcinogens.

Risk factors and nationality

The environmental risk factors we are exposed to depend on where we live, and are related to the ease of getting a particular type of cancer compared to another.

In general, people in the United States and in Europe develop similar diseases because both geographical areas are economically developed and therefore have fairly similar living conditions.

The peoples of the developing countries tend to contract different types of cancer, and have a different predisposition towards certain forms, due to diversity in the habits of life, feeding and exposure to certain chemicals. For example, these may be more or less present in the environment, in different geographical areas, according to the legislation that regulates its use and disposal.


Some cancers are typical of the female sex (such as cancer of the uterus and ovaries ), and other types of male sex, such as testicular and prostate cancer . However, most tumors can affect both men and women. Some tumors are slightly more common in humans, because humans are generally more exposed to environmental risks.

For example, lung cancerit affects more men than women, simply because men as a whole are major smokers. Similarly, mouth cancer, mainly caused by heavy alcohol consumption and smoking habit, is among the top 10 most common cancers in Europe and the United States, but this is no longer true if we consider the only one female population.

Family history

Some people inherit a greater sensitivity to carcinogens. This makes it easier to get cancer, but it does not necessarily mean that you have to get sick. In a family where several members have become cancer it is likely that there is a family predisposition to cancer, such as for a person who has at least two close relatives (two sisters, or a mother and a child) who have had the same kind of cancer. However, sometimes, the story of a family is dictated by pure chance and not by a hereditary risk.


The idea that cancer is an almost exclusive disease of the modern age derives above all from an article published in the prestigious journal Nature Reviews Cancer by Professor Michael Zimmerman of the University of Manchester and his colleague Rosalie David.

In this article the two researchers showed how from the microscopic examination of countless fossil finds of mummified bodies and hundreds and hundreds of Egyptian mummies, only one confirmed case of cancer emerged, thus leading them to claim that “the absence of malignancies in mummies it must be interpreted as an indication of their rarity in antiquity, indicating that the factors that cause cancer are limited to modern industrialized societies “.

Often we tend to think that cancer is a disease of our times, also caused by overly processed foods, environmental pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, etc., all so-called “modern” problems.

The oldest evidence of tumor disease dates back to 1.7 million years ago

In part it is true, but it is not so. The oldest evidence of cancer has recently been found in Africa. Precisely in South Africa in the fossil remains of human skeleton dating back 1.7 million years ago. Prior to this discovery, the earliest evidence of bone neoplasia in the human lineage appears to be present in a homo jaw found in Kenya.

The bone lesion was diagnosed unequivocally: as an osteosarcoma, a keloid or osteomyelitis on a traumatic basis. The first certain tumor disease dates back to around 3000 BC. The new discovery of fossil remains with the presence of a tumor occurred near Johannesburg in the archaeological site of Swartkrans, the research appeared in the South African Journal of Science – Earliest hominin cancer: 1.7-million-year-old osteosarcoma from Swartkrans Cave, South Africa.

The tumor was present in the bone of a toe and, compared to modern biopsies, turned out to be an osteosarcoma, an extremely aggressive form of cancer that affects the skeletal system. The disease has certainly reduced the possibility of movement of the hominid, so it is probable that it was subsequently killed by a saber-toothed tiger.

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In ancient Rome the average life was 22 years, in medieval England of 33

There is not much news of cancer in antiquity, in 2014 in Amara West in northern Sudan a bone tumor was found in the skeleton of a young Egyptian male who lived in 1200 BC Cancer diseases often sleep the result of a set of causes of age , lifestyle, environmental pollution and so on.

Surely age plays a major role, and life expectancy varies a lot over the centuries; in ancient Rome the average life was 22 years, in medieval England of 33, in the early nineteenth century in the United States it was 49 years. After the second half of the last century, Italy became one of the longest-lived countries in the world: in 2005 the average life was approx. 78 years for men and 83 for women. Probably the average life in prehistory was very few years, some lucky ones could reach a remarkable age but they were exceptions.

The wine, which if abused certainly has a carcinogenic effect was present already six thousand years ago among the Sumerians and in the Assyrian bas-reliefs, but the tobacco that appears in Europe only in the seventeenth century, imported from America, is missing. So an extremely short average life and the scarcity of risk factors make tumors a rare disease in past centuries but unfortunately extremely frequent in our years.

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