Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Croatian skeletons reveal changing status of cancer in Europe across the centuries

06.07.2004


Cancer incidence rates in the developed world are increasing each year and developing countries are also now showing an increased incidence of the disease. But how much were our ancestors affected by the disease? Dr Mario Slaus of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb presented archaeological findings at the 18th Meeting of the European Association of Cancer Research (EACR-18) in Innsbruck today (6 July 2004), suggesting that the disease was very uncommon even in our recent ancestors, reinforcing the concept that cancer is a ‘modern’ disease and is largely a consequence of the greater longevity we are now experiencing.



Dr Slaus and his colleagues1 analysed the skeletal remains of the 3,160 individuals in the Skeletal Collection of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts for evidence of neoplasms (uncontrolled and abnormal tissue growth). The remains in the collection date from 5,300BC to the 19th Century AD and have been collected from archaeological sites across Croatia. Analysis (including gross morphology, X-rays and CT-scans) revealed 4 cases of neoplastic disease in individuals ranging from 3-4 years to 50-60 years of age. All 4 cases involved bone neoplasms (obviously, as bone was the only tissue remaining): two fibrous cortical defects, an osteochondroma and an osteoma. All three conditions were benign, with little potential for malignant transformation.

“The low frequency of neoplasms in the Croatian Skeletal Collection is characteristic for archaeological material”, said Dr Slaus. “We found no evidence of secondary bone tumours in any individual in the collection, a factor that is probably explained by the fact that the mean age-at-death of the specimens is 35.6 years. Primary malignant and benign tumours of bone are relatively rare, even in young individuals where the incidence of these neoplasms is highest, whilst secondary tumours of bone, although much more common, are associated with older age”.


Life expectancy in the 21st Century is higher than it has ever been in the past; a consequence of a range of factors such as better nutrition, improved health awareness in the population, better sanitation and more accessible healthcare. However, increased longevity is accompanied by an increased incidence of cancer. The factors most clearly correlated with the development of cancer in the European Union are smoking (estimated to cause 30% of all cancer deaths) and obesity / dietary factors (estimated to be responsible for a further 30% of all cancer deaths) but these factors often take many years to lead to the development of symptomatic tumours, so aging populations naturally show a higher incidence of the disease.

“The individuals in the Croatian Skeletal Collection would have been prone to diseases such as syphilis, tuberculosis and leprosy (and we found evidence for each of these conditions in individuals in the collection) and these illnesses (and others) would certainly have contributed significantly to mortality in our ancestors”, added Dr Slaus.

“The change from these ‘old’ illnesses to ‘modern’ ones such as cancer can be seen as part of the evolution of our society, but as with the ‘old’ illnesses we can go some way to combating the ‘modern’ illness of cancer through educating people about the risks of the disease and encouraging them to adopt a healthy lifestyle”, said Dr Slaus.

The Croatian Skeletal Collection demonstrates how cancer is, in large part, a consequence of our recently significantly increased life-span, as well as significant changes to our lifestyle. The incidence of cancer we currently have in Europe, and the increasing incidence being seen in the developing world, can be reduced significantly through greater education about the benefits of not smoking tobacco, by encouraging people to eat a diet plentiful in fresh fruit and vegetables, through the promotion of a lifestyle that includes regular exercise and by encouraging people not to drink alcohol to excess.

Stuart Bell | alfa
Further information:
http://www.fecs.be

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers invent tiny, light-powered wires to modulate brain's electrical signals

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

The “Holy Grail” of peptide chemistry: Making peptide active agents available orally

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Atomic structure of ultrasound material not what anyone expected

21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>