Review: Cancer: A Historic Perspective

Here is what we have learned from Cancer: A Historic Perspective:

  • Ancient Egyptians first recorded cancer as a disease. From papyrus manuscripts and hieroglyphic inscriptions we learned that some 4500 years ago, attempts were already made by Egyptians to understand cancer and to treat the cancer patients, using surgery and magical treatments.
  • In Greece and Rome, and throughout the Middle Ages, cancer was continuously regarded as a disease caused by an excess of black bile. While surgeries were carried out to treat cancer, doctors believed that the disease was curable only in its earliest stages and best left alone.
  • In the 16th century, the theory that cancer was caused by an excess of black bile continued to prevail.
  • During the 17th century, the old theory of disease based on bodily humors was discarded when Gaspare Aselli discovered the vessels of the lymphatic system and suggested abnormalities of lymph as the primary cause of cancer.
  • Observations on environmental cancers were made in the 18th century. People started research on the connection between certain environments and cancer incidence patterns. With the first systematic experiments in cancer, oncology was born as a medical discipline.
  • In the late 19th century, study of cancer tissues and tumors revealed that cancer cells were markedly different in appearance than normal cells of surrounding tissue.
  • In the early 20th century, cancer research in cell culture, chemical carcinogens, diagnostic techniques and chemotherapy firmly established oncology as an experimental science.
  • In 1937, the U.S. Congress passed the National Cancer Institute Act with a unanimous vote, creating the National Cancer Institute.
  • In 1971, President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, launching a National Cancer Program administered by the National Cancer Institute.