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Nat Rev Cancer. 2010 Oct;10(10):728-33. doi: 10.1038/nrc2914. Epub 2010 Sep 3.

Cancer: an old disease, a new disease or something in between?

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KNH Centre of Biomedical Egyptology, The University of Manchester, 3.614 Stopford Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.


In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. The history of this disorder has the potential to improve our understanding of disease prevention, aetiology, pathogenesis and treatment. A striking rarity of malignancies in ancient physical remains might indicate that cancer was rare in antiquity, and so poses questions about the role of carcinogenic environmental factors in modern societies. Although the rarity of cancer in antiquity remains undisputed, the first published histological diagnosis of cancer in an Egyptian mummy demonstrates that new evidence is still forthcoming.

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