CANCER IN ANCIENT EGYPT WAS VERY RARE
If you believe the analysis done on mummies, then ancient Egyptians didn’t even know what cancer was. This is unlike us, who lose 9 million annually.
The first sensational onco-historic study was described in a 2010 Nature article. The authors studied diverse remains, from fossils to 18th century chimney sweepers, and discovered that cancer is a later “invention” of civilisation.
Among other things, they studied hundreds of ancient mummies. They found one cancerous tumor in the rectum of a mummy from the Ptolemaic Era, and that’s it!
In June, Live Science published an article on a new survey of 1087 mummies from the Egyptian oasis of Dakhla. These people lived 1500-3000 years ago.
A few more were identified. To identify additional cases, scientists examined their bones.
Two women and a man died of cancer at 20-30 years of age, of the cervix and testicles respectively. Another case was a child with leukemia.
In summary, there were only 6 cases out of 1087 mummies. Their conclusion is that the risk of getting cancer in Egypt was only .5%. Western countries have a rate as high as 50%.
It turns out that the risk for cancer now is 100 times higher than it was in Dakhla. One consolation is that we live a lot longer.
Some people living at Dakhleh could have died of cancer without any traces
Or could it be that they just didn’t live long enough to get cancer? Scientists have rejected this argument, saying that they lived through other diseases that we consider age-related.
They had fantastic medicine at that time, though. Many of them that they considered magic indeed have therapeutic effects. For example, rheumatism was treated with celery. They also had surgery and traumatology, successfully treating fractures. Consuming corpses as medicine was not always taboo, though, and that kind of treatment developed quite violently.
We often underestimate our predecessors. Cataract surgery were first described in 800 BCE. However, treatment is certainly better nowadays.
Photo by Fynn Schmidt on Unsplash