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Cancer caused by modern man


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#16    Queen in the North

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:01 PM

Okay, I haven't studied Ancient Eygpt for a long while, but I thought that mummies were generally the mummified remains of the rich and well-to-do?

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:09 PM

View Postqueen.overthink, on 16 October 2010 - 06:01 PM, said:

Okay, I haven't studied Ancient Eygpt for a long while, but I thought that mummies were generally the mummified remains of the rich and well-to-do?

Quite so, in fact being mummified was quite expensive.

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#18    ShadowSot

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:10 PM

View Postqueen.overthink, on 16 October 2010 - 06:01 PM, said:

Okay, I haven't studied Ancient Eygpt for a long while, but I thought that mummies were generally the mummified remains of the rich and well-to-do?
For the most part, though the desert sands successfully preserved the bodies of commoners as well.
  
As far as I recall, there are examples in the fossil record dating back to the age of the dinosaurs of cancer.

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things.
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#19    Queen in the North

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:19 PM

View Postquestionmark, on 16 October 2010 - 06:09 PM, said:

Quite so, in fact being mummified was quite expensive.
So it could be said that mummies aren't exactly a fair sample of the population back then, I guess?

I imagine the rich then (as now, usually) have a rather easier and less stress-filled lifestyle than the commoners, better living conditions, better diet etc, and that could contribute to the results from the research. Especially considering the article says that "the only diagnosis of cancer was a case in an unnamed mummy, an "ordinary" person who had lived around 200AD".

I may be talking rot though.

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#20    ShadowSot

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:26 PM

View Postqueen.overthink, on 16 October 2010 - 06:19 PM, said:

So it could be said that mummies aren't exactly a fair sample of the population back then, I guess?

I imagine the rich then (as now, usually) have a rather easier and less stress-filled lifestyle than the commoners, better living conditions, better diet etc, and that could contribute to the results from the research. Especially considering the article says that "the only diagnosis of cancer was a case in an unnamed mummy, an "ordinary" person who had lived around 200AD".

I may be talking rot though.

When examining remains, you have to take into account you're nearly always looking at a minority. So I'd like to see mroe documentation on how this study was conducted.

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things.
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#21    questionmark

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:36 PM

View Postqueen.overthink, on 16 October 2010 - 06:19 PM, said:

So it could be said that mummies aren't exactly a fair sample of the population back then, I guess?

I imagine the rich then (as now, usually) have a rather easier and less stress-filled lifestyle than the commoners, better living conditions, better diet etc, and that could contribute to the results from the research. Especially considering the article says that "the only diagnosis of cancer was a case in an unnamed mummy, an "ordinary" person who had lived around 200AD".

I may be talking rot though.

I doubt that the rich were any "healthier" than the poor at that time. They had a small advantage (about 3 years) in longevity (which is still about 10% over the average). And as ShadowSot has already pointed out, the dry dessert was quite successful in preserving the "commoners". The elaborate sarcophagus of the rich required  additional measures.

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If you look at the above graph you will notice that even in our times people who die of cancer before 30 are a minority. If we translate this to ancient Egypt we come to the conclusion that with 2 million inhabitants they could not have more than 120 cancer death. Trying to find those is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. That among the known Egyptian mummies (no more than a few thousand)  there is one that can positively be diagnose with cancer does not fall out of the normal statistic variations.

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#22    Queen in the North

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:39 PM

I see. Thanks for the explanation :)

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#23    Wickian

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:41 PM

I'm sure modern (junk) food and other substances we're exposed to contribute to cancer.  A much larger population could also account for a larger number of every kind of illness/disease though.


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Posted 16 October 2010 - 06:48 PM

View PostWickian, on 16 October 2010 - 06:41 PM, said:

I'm sure modern (junk) food and other substances we're exposed to contribute to cancer.  A much larger population could also account for a larger number of every kind of illness/disease though.

My suspicion would be much less toward junk food and more to additives, pesticide and herbicides. Anabolica in meat is not very healthy either. But all legal.

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#25    Emin

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 07:30 PM

I thought it would be lie common sense to us all, that cancer is much more prevalent in todays modern world simply due to the fact that we live in an almost artificially composed world of different chemicals and materials that are just not apparent existentially in natural life, and of course there are lots of things going on like say for example all of the electronics we use that give off electromagnetic radiation and such which are as well known to be harmful over a long period of time, and as well all of the factories that give off their mutiple plumes of smoke and chemicals being freely expelled into the atmosphere and so on. There are so many things nowadays that can simply cause cancer that are manmade, and not so natural.  :no:

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#26    Coyote Speaks

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 08:21 PM

I don't really believe that our "man made world" is the cause of higher incidences of cancer. Cancer is primarily, as has been pointed out, a disease of age.  The older you get, the higher your risk of cancer. Yes, overall health impacts it is as well, but if you reach a certain point where nothing else has killed you? You're going to get cancer.


#27    Copasetic

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 08:47 PM

Timeout!

As this is the science section of the forum, I think some people should take care to post a little more accurately regarding cancer. There is a lot of misinformation in this topic thus far.

First and foremost, as has been alluded too, cancer is a disease of age. Why?

When your cells replicate, the protein machinery which copies the DNA can make errors. The rate of error is very low, maybe like 10-8 per base pair, per gene. We see a couple of things which refute what some posters have said on this topic. Firstly, cancers are more common in tissues which continuously divide throughout the life of the organism, like epithelia tissues. Secondly, as others have pointed out, cancer is normally a disease that is associated with "older folks". Hmmmmmm.....A clue?

Yes in deed. It was incorrectly pointed out that cancers were an "old adaptation to cell growth". This is blatantly false. When a cell is going to replicate, it has various checks and balances which occur during interphase of the cell cycle. These checks say things like "DNA for such and such gene is too damaged, therefore you should not replicate and instead die". Cells do a heroic little then, called apoptosis--In which they choose termination over potentially dangerous growth.

The problems occur, because over the course of a lifetime, you accumulate (despite the low error rate) errors to this system of checks and balances. And a cell will be more likely to "break away on his own" than follow the colony rules. That cell's progeny (he keeps dividing) also inherit his selfish approach to colony live and thus a tumor is born.

This in itself wouldn't be that big of a problem, because your body has specialized white blood cells which can still induce apoptosis in these "breakaway" cell lines, dubbed natural killer (NK) cells. These NK cells work by affecting a "death receptor" on the surface cancerous cells activating a signal transduction pathway that ends with a special type of protease (think of them as little pac-mans for proteins) destroying the cell from the inside out. If you are over the age of 20ish, this is a process which happens in your body every day. Problem solved, back to life as usual. But is it?

Remember we said that cancerous cells require an accumulation of errors to become "cancerous". They also acquire more errors which do a funny thing, they begin to excrete soluble copies of these death receptors so that when NK cells come around, their surface ligands (the thing which binds to the death receptors) get blocked and are ineffective.

Never fear, there is yet more checks and balances which can stop the cancerous colonies. Because these cells are quickly proliferating they require an increased supply of oxygen and nutrients. A cancerous colony will quickly burn itself out and die without the proper nutritional requirements met (for anyone who's ever taken a gross anatomy course and dissected a human, you'll note the many tumors and "pre-cancerous" growths found in the older cadavers, which did not kill them).

So again, cancerous cells must "get lucky" with more errors. They have to have certain genes turned on which are expressed during regenerative healing or embryological development that stimulate the growth of vasculature (blood vessels) to the tumor, otherwise starvation will ensue (in deed a great many chemotheraputic agents target this ability for cancerous to acquire vasculature and work by "starving" the tumor).

We are yet still faced with another problem for cancerous cells. As a tumor grows and gets crowded the cells, despite improved vasculature, will burn up nutrients and the tumor size will be self-limiting. This is why you could have a tumor in your leg or another "non vital place" for years and years with no problems.

We come again to an accumulation of errors (see the repeating theme?). Some of the offspring in that tumor may happen upon another group of "lucky" errors which allow them to "pick up and move shop". This is of course, really bad for the over all health of the organism and is often the point of "terminal no return"-Or what we say in medicine, metastasis.  

Cancer is literally "a series of unfortunate events" (Great book by the way!), that take (in most cases a life time to accumulate).

There are of course, more rare cancers which can manifest earlier in life and the genetic basis of these (with your new education now, I'm sure you could hazard a correct guess) is inherited mutations to these cell control cycles. For instance, a rather famous one(s) (really a group) comes from xeroderma pigmentosum. Mutations to the "repair machinery" which allows us to repair DNA damage caused by UV light (thymine-thymine dimerizations for any of you biology savvy people).

In the case of these inherited dispositions to cancers, by damaging the repair or "checks and balances" machinery, cancerous growth is expedited and manifested at a much earlier age.




So is cancer a "outcome of the modern world"? Inadvertently yes. Because people in the west don't die at the age of 30 from things like small pox, scarlet fever or diphtheria because of modern technology and medicine, your more likely to live a longer healthier life which gives your cell lines a chance to accumulate errors to the "point of no return". Of course, people argue about returning to a "healthier life-style" like that of the "ancients" and if living fast and dying young (<30 years of age) is your cup of tea then I'd encourage you to forgo the perks of "modern life-styles".

The up note is that modern medicine is becoming exceedingly good at treating, preventing and stopping cancers before they become a problem.

Patients often ask, why cancer? We get trained at the hospital to explain to patients, their families and loved ones, any number of causes and reasons for various types of cancer. From "just plain unlucky" to "maybe you shouldn't have smoked for 40 years" (of course we don't say it like that).

But the real answer is in our old friend the American public loves to hate: evolution. Because, we are (as someone remarked above I think) vessels for our genes, our bodies only need to serve the purpose of replicating those genes. How long we live, is a function of the age needed to successfully replicate those genes. Because once you've won at the game of evolution (pass on your genes) anything that happens to you afterwords cannot be impacted by natural selection.

From an evolutionary standpoint then, it makes little sense to evolve "better" replication machinery less prone to error. Because doing so would cost the organism in some areas that may require sacrifices which hurt the individual's chances of reproductive success-A very bad thing as far as your genes are concerned. They are much happier to take the approach that you live long enough to reproduce, then are free to die any kind of messy death you may or may not deserve. From their standpoint, your "job" is complete once you've replicated and from natural selection's standpoint replicating ensures no penalty against your genes.

If you study reproductive biology, you'll see a wonderful correlation in the lifespan of an organism and its reproductive strategy.


#28    Copasetic

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 08:52 PM

View Postchaoszerg, on 16 October 2010 - 05:40 PM, said:

Is there anything to back that up, or is that just you making the claim?


See my post above


#29    Copasetic

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 08:56 PM

View Postquestionmark, on 16 October 2010 - 06:48 PM, said:

My suspicion would be much less toward junk food and more to additives, pesticide and herbicides. Anabolica in meat is not very healthy either. But all legal.

Even if you lived in a void of "modern chemicals" you'd still get cancer. Errors of biological replication is an inevitable part of life on earth.

In an ironic twist, errors are the reason we and all of life are here.

Edited by Copasetic, 16 October 2010 - 08:59 PM.


#30    questionmark

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 09:00 PM

View PostCopasetic, on 16 October 2010 - 08:56 PM, said:

Even if you lived in a void of "modern chemicals" you'd still get cancer. Errors of biological replication is an inevitable part of life on earth.

I acknowledged that already far up this thread, but you will not dispute that substances that cause an accelerated cell decay also increase the risk of cancer, or did I understand you wrong?

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