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

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Seeing on the Quick: New Insights into Active Vision in the Brain
15.08.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht New Approach to Treating Chronic Itch
15.08.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Diving robots find Antarctic winter seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide

15.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>