It’s no surprise to anyone that cancer rates have skyrocketed in the last century. Cancer is now the second-highest leading causes of death in the United States, being less than 25,000 deaths a year behind heart disease. Although cancer rates continue to rise, many people attribute this to an increased lifespan in general.
However, new research has shown that there is a good chance that cancer is a disease that has been caused by the “progress” made by humankind during the industrial revolution, and that it is not, in fact, due to people living longer.
Cancer in Antiquity
Researchers at Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology conducted a vast search for evidence of cancer in both the remains of Egyptian mummies and medical literature from ancient Egypt.
The researchers found very few references to cancer in all of the medical literature that they reviewed, and in the examination of hundreds of Egyptian mummies they only found one case of cancer.
Although many people may be skeptical of how well-preserved evidence of cancer in mummies may be, according to Michael Zimmerman, M.D. Ph.D., there is no reason for this other than a lack of cancer in ancient Egyptian society.
“In an ancient society lacking surgical intervention, evidence of cancer should remain in all cases,” Zimmerman said. “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 industrialization.”
Zimmerman also explained how ancient malignancies and tumors are actually better preserved than normal, healthy tissue. This means that the only explanation for there being such little evidence of cancer in these mummies is that there were not many cases of cancer in ancient Egypt.
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Many people also suggested that it is due to ancient populations living such a short life span as the reason why they had such low incidences of cancer. However, researchers noted that many of the individuals they studied that lived in ancient Egypt and Greece lived long enough to develop diseases such as atherosclerosis, Paget’s disease of bone, and osteoporosis.
Cancer in the Industrial Revolution
As the researchers moved closer to the modern era throughout the years, they did not find descriptions of operations conducted on cancers until the 17th century, which also happens to be the beginning of the industrial revolution.
Researchers found that these cancers were attributed to specific lifestyles or habits, such as scrotal cancer in chimney sweepers or nasal cancer in snuff users. Researchers also found that there was a massive rise in childhood cancers, again proving that the increase in cancer rates was not due simply to an increase in lifespan.
According to Professor Rosalie David, at the Faculty of Life Sciences, this proves that cancer is a disease that is brought on by modern lifestyle and diets.
“In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death,” David said. “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.”
How to Protect Yourself from Man-Made Cancer
Although this study provides more than enough information to suggest that many cases of cancer are indeed due to man-made progress, cancer is still a very complicated issue and there is no piece of advice that should be considered a “cure-all” for cancer.
However, there are still ways that you can protect yourself from many of the cancerous elements of modern society.
One of the most notable causes of cancer created by modern man is industrial pollution. There are countless that studies that confirm the connection between living near highways and in highly industrial areas and an increased risk of lung cancer. Many researchers attribute this to the increased pollution that many living in these areas face.
Thankfully, there are many plants that are incredibly efficient at removing pollution and cleaning the air around them. If you live near a major roadway or near an industrial area, consider planting some of these plants in and around your house:
- Garden Mum
- Spider Plant
- Weeping Fig
- Boston Fern
- Snake Plant
- Aloe Vera
- Bamboo Palm
Aside from air pollution, researchers also suggest the food we eat to be a major cause of cancer. This can be due to a variety of factors, including the way we grow our food, the chemicals we treat our food with and how we harvest our food.
As a general rule, try to avoid fruits and vegetables that are sprayed with pesticides that contain cancer-causing chemicals. Also opt for GMO-free foods and to buy your meat from local farmer’s markets rather than grocery stores.
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