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A friend sent me a recent controversial study by the University of Manchester in Britain that stated: “Cancer is a man-made disease.”  This assertion was based on the researchers finding no evidence of cancer in Egyptian remains stretching back thousands of years, which led them to conclude that cancer is something that happened with the dawn of the Industrial Age, proclaiming “there is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer, so it has to be a man-made disease, down to pollution and changes to our diet and life-style.”

As with all published studies, we shouldn’t look at this one with blinders on; especially when it comes to cancer. It’s likely that both genetics and a wide range of other factors contribute in different ways to different cancers.

Cancer is an uncontrolled system of cell division inside the human body. The word cancer represents not just one disease, but many diseases. There are, in fact, more than 100 different types of cancer.

In the field of cancer research, scientists define the environment as everything outside the body that enters and interacts with it.  These interactions, or environmental exposures, include a long list of different types of exposures, like sunshine, radiation, hormones, viruses, bacteria, and chemicals in the air, water, food, and workplace.  They also include lifestyle choices like cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, or sexual behavior.

A cornerstone of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s mission is to fund research that seeks to better understand this disease, what causes it both genetically and in terms of environmental triggers, and how we can reduce our risk for it or prevent it.

Let’s not forget man is living an average of 40 years longer, and last time I checked the sun was not man-made. More than 68,000 people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year due to exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Nearly 12,000 will die. Add in basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer and that number increases by more than 2 million!

Are some cancers linked to man made intervention like smoking tobacco and chemical pollutants? Absolutely. But if ancient Egyptians had the life span of modern man would they too develop various forms of cancer? We don’t know. We do know, however, that the longer you live, the greater chance you have to develop cancer.

Instead of focusing on carcinogens or chemicals, let’s focus on what individuals can do to reduce their risk of cancer.

Source: CNN Health