Friday, October 22, 2010

Is cancer a modern disease?

This is utter rubbish. People in ancient times died much younger and most cancers emerge relatively late in life. The findings below are exactly what you would expect from that. The author recognizes that problem but her rebuttal is weak. It depends on her small sample of old-age mummies being representative. Yet it was basically only the top stratum of Egyptian society that was mummified and upper class people are much healthier than lower class people. And ANYONE who survived to old age in that society would have to have been unusually healthy

Cancer is often regarded in our society as a natural, if grim, part of the human ­condition — a dark shadow that hangs over our health. This is hardly surprising, given that one in three people develop cancer at some stage in their lives, with the disease ultimately responsible for a quarter of all deaths in Britain.

Yet it is possible that cancer is not nearly as natural as we might think. Through research with fellow scientist Professor Michael Zimmerman, I have uncovered powerful ­evidence to suggest that cancer could largely be a modern phenomenon linked to our diet, ­environment and lifestyles.

Over the past 30 years, we have ­conducted an extensive study into ancient mummified bodies, skeletal remains and classical literature from ancient societies. If cancer had always been ­prevalent in humans, we would have expected to find a large number of cases of it.

But what we discovered was striking. In all these studies, involving tens of thousands of ­individuals, we found hardly any. Among the hundreds of mummies we examined, only three definite ­incidences of cancer were detected: one from Chile, one from 14th-century Italy and one from ancient Egypt.

And out of the thousands of bones studied from European Neanderthal ­society, only one — a 35,000-year-old skull bone from Stettin, Germany — had traces of a ­malignant tumour.

In ancient Egyptian documents, too, there is no clear mention of the disease, though the ­Egyptians had relatively sophisticated medical knowledge. The near complete absence of any ­evidence of cancer in the ancient world suggests that the ­disease could be ­‘man-enhanced’, meaning its increased ­prevalence is the result of our ­industrialised and highly-stressed ­modern societies.

Since Professor Zimmerman and I published our report, last week, several objections to our theory have been loudly voiced by other scientists.

One key argument is that cancer is essentially a disease of older people, and, therefore, as life expectancy was so much lower in the ancient world, far fewer people would have contracted it. According to this thesis, the vast majority would have died of something else before they had the chance of getting cancer. But this does not stand up.

The average rates of life expectancy in the ancient world might have been far lower than today, but, even so, some ­individuals lived to an old age, as we know from skeletal records and ­literature. Yet our studies reveal that none of them seem to have had cancer.

Significantly, we found ample evidence of other age-related conditions, such as osteoarthritis, which leads to bone degeneration, and ­atherosclerosis, which causes the ­arteries to harden. If such diseases obviously existed in the ancient world, then why is the ­evidence missing for cancer?

Others have questioned the methods we used to test the mummies, ­claiming that modern techniques are not sophisticated enough to draw conclusions about the incidence of cancers.

But, once more, this does not stand up to scrutiny. My colleague Professor Zimmerman conducted experiments using cutting-edge scanners to see how well cancer tumours are preserved in mummified tissue. His tests found the ­process of mummification actually ­preserves such tumours very well. So, contrary to the claims of our detractors, traces of cancer should undoubtedly have survived from the ancient world — if they existed.

That is all the more true because the absence of medical surgery at the time would have meant that any individual tumour would have remained within the body rather than being cut out.

I am, therefore, sticking with our belief that, over the great sweeping narrative of history, cancer must have been extremely rare in the ancient world compared with today.

We suggest this huge difference may have been down to the changes in our lives that modern society has brought, from pollution to diet. Essentially, ­cancer has to be a man-made disease.

Our research supports the views of medical campaigners and experts who have long argued that mounting ­incidence of cancer is caused by factors present only in the modern world.

Diet is a classic example. Today, we consume large quantities of processed foods (which have often been produced with huge amounts of cancer-causing pesticides or chemicals) and heavily-salted instant meals, as well as fatty takeaways and sugary drinks.

In contrast, the ancient Egyptians had a far healthier diet, which — for most of the population — consisted of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables. Occasionally, on feast days, they may have had meat.

More here

Cinnamon is good for diabetics

A bit surprising but much of the pharmacopeia is of herbal origin so it is not very surprising. Abstract below

Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type 2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial

Aims: To determine the blood glucose lowering effect of cinnamon on HbA1c, blood pressure and lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes.

Methods: 58 type 2 diabetic patients (25 males and 33 females), aged 54.9 ± 9.8, treated only with hypoglycemic agents and with an HbA1c more than 7% were randomly assigned to receive either 2g of cinnamon or placebo daily for 12 weeks.

Results: After intervention, the mean HbA1c was significantly decreased (P<0.005) in the cinnamon group (8.22% to 7.86%) compared with placebo group (8.55% to 8.68%). Mean systolic and diastolic blood pressures (SBP and DBP) were also significantly reduced (P<0.001) after 12 weeks in the cinnamon group (SBP: 132.6 to 129.2 mmHg and DBP: 85.2 to 80.2 mmHg) compared with the placebo group (SBP: 134.5 to 134.9 mmHg and DBP: 86.8 to 86.1 mmHg). A significant reduction in fasting plasma glucose (FPG), waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) was observed at week 12 compared to baseline in the cinnamon group, however, the changes were not significant when compared to placebo group. There were no significant differences in serum lipid profiles of total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL cholesterols neither between nor within the groups.

Conclusions: Intake of 2g of cinnamon for 12 weeks significantly reduces the HbA1c, SBP and DBP among poorly controlled type 2 diabetes patients. Cinnamon supplementation could be considered as an additional dietary supplement option to regulate blood glucose and blood pressure levels along with conventional medications to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus.



John A said...

Is cancer a modern disease?

Also, what is meant by "modern" - the ancient Greeks did not just have a word for it, they had several, and distinguished between benign and malignant types. 14th-century Italy indeed!

I am also reminded that syphilis was not supposed to have existed in the Americas before Europeans arrived - until evidence of it was found (1960s?) in the ten thousand year old remains of a bear.

John A said...

Cinnamon is good for diabetics

Hah, I read about a study saying that perhaps two years ago. I well remember because, being accustomed to occasionally using various flavorings (such as chocolate) in my coffee, I decided to try it - forgetting that cinnamon is ground bark, and floats rather than mix/dissolve!