Not only plague, famine or wars cut humanity in the Middle Ages. New research shows that cancer was already a common cause at the time.
Cancer is often considered the scourge of modern civilization, the line of aging, air pollutants or nicotine. However, new research calls into question this notion. Researchers at the University of Cambridge used X-rays and computed tomography to detect surprising traces of cancer in medieval skeletons.
They revealed lesions hidden in the bones
Their research shows that nine to fourteen percent of adults in medieval Britain had cancer at the time of their death. This is ten times more than previously expected.
Previous research has estimated the incidence of cancer only from bone lesions and concluded that in the Middle Ages cancer was rare and affected only one percent of the population.
Now the researchers were very consistent.
“Using CT scans, we were also able to detect hidden lesions within the bones that appear to be healthy on the outside,” said Dr. Jenna Ditmar, who led the research on the Cambridge University website.
During the new research, researchers scanned and x-rayed 143 intermediate skeletons from 500 to 1600. They were collected from six graves around Cambridge, of which 96 were for men, 46 for women, and the rest for unnamed persons.
Using computed tomography, the researchers diagnosed cancer in 3.8 percent of individuals. Considering that only one-third of cancer deaths involve the spread of metastases to the bones, they came to a simple conclusion:
The incidence of cancer in the medieval British population ranged from nine to fourteen per cent.
The number of tumors is increasing
“Until now, the main causes of poor health in medieval people were infectious diseases, such as diarrhea or plague, malnutrition and injuries from fighting. But now we must also consider cancer. Our study shows that cancer is one of the major diseases affecting medieval people,” said Dr. Cambridge. Quoted by Ditmer.
In a study published in a journal Cancer However, researchers point out that cancer is now more common. Today, almost half of people in the UK have cancer when they die. Thus, cancer is three to four times more common than in the Middle Ages. This is also because significantly longer lifespan gives more time to develop cancer.
(600,000 people in the Czech Republic live with a malignant neoplasm or history of the disease.)
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