An experimental study of mummification pertinent to the antiquity of cancer

Cancer. 1977 Sep;40(3):1358-62. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(197709)40:3<1358::aid-cncr2820400354>;2-j.


The relatively recent description in scientific literature of many types of cancer suggests their infrequency until the relatively recent past, a view supported by the paucity of diagnoses of malignancies in ancient remains. While overall life span was short in antiquity, many individuals did live to the "cancer age," as there is ample evidence of a variety of degenerative disorders. It has been suggested that tumors are not well enough preserved for diagnosis, and tumors experimentally mummified and rehydrated were evaluated as to their preservation. It was found that cancers were actually better preserved than normal tissues. The absence of tumors in ancient tissues must be considered a reflection of a markedly lower incidence than in the modern population of the Lnited States, in which cancer accounts for approximately 17% of all deaths. It is suggested that this increase in cancer is due to factors in the modern industrialized environment.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mummies*
  • Neoplasms / history*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Postmortem Changes*