The Antiquity of Cancer ~ Not just a modern day blight

Cancer is one of the world’s leading causes of death and morbidity, The American Cancer society reports that more than 36 million people worldwide die of non-communicable diseases every year, with nearly 8 million of them from cancer.

We often attribute the prevalence of this disease as a product of modern living, a combination of environmental and lifestyle choices: poor diet, radiation, smoking, pollution. These are all certainly modifiable risk factors that play a HUGE role in the development of cell mutation and cancer. I would advocate for reducing your personal risk by both decreasing these modifiable risk factors and getting screened early and often if you know you are at a higher risk.

However, let’s step back in time, did you know that the earliest records of cancer is from c. 1200BC ?! Archaeologists in northern Sudan discovered a young-adult displaying multiple osteolytic lesions consistent with a metastatic carcinoma.(Full article attached at the bottom for those interested in getting their Archaeologist on!) Papyri also been found where the ancient Egyptians also described cases of cancer dating from sources as early as 2500 BC!


The hieroglyph name of Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, wisdom, and medicine.

IndyAside from being fascinating, it is important to understand the evolution of a disease. This historical context can provide researchers with new insights into the history and antiquity of cancer, it’s underlying causes, and progression. So high five an archaeologist the next time you meet one, not just for filling our museums with awesome stuff but for contributing to the advancement of medical field!

Check out the article detailing the archeological discovery and their differential diagnostic process! Fascinating:  journal.pone.0090924

Own this shell! Participate in the Relay for Life fundraising effort:

  • Each day in May, instead of a coffee cup, I will be painting a shell as a fundraising effort for The American Cancer Society. Interested in owning one of these shells? Be the first to post a comment on my blog each day with a donation pledge and I’ll mail you the shell (or hand deliver with a hug if you live close or someplace interesting 🙂 )
  • Visit my fundraising site: From here you can:
    • Fulfill your shell pledge
    • Donate or dedicate a luminaria to a survivor or in memory of love ones lost (these light the path for those walking in the evening)
    • Join my team! Going to be in D.C. or Northern Virginia Saturday May 17? I’ll be driving out to Culpeper after my graduation around 8pm, carpool with me and come play! (disclaimer, there will be singing in the car!)

One thought on “The Antiquity of Cancer ~ Not just a modern day blight

  1. Pingback: Turtle Nesting Season ~ Beach lights OFF at night! | A Cup A Day

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