Did people get cancer as often in the 1800s as we do now? In this article we will explore the answer to this question. The first major statistical analysis of cancer occurred in Verona in 1793. It revealed that the most common female cancers were breast and uterine, accounting for approximately one-third of deaths. Furthermore, cancer rates were higher among women than men, and the incidence of death from cancer increased with age.
William Coley, known as the “Father of Immunotherapy,” became a role model for the clinician-scientist. Inspired by his first patient’s death, Coley studied the scientific literature for ideas on how to cure cancer. He then injected patients with bacteria products to stimulate their immune system. Many of his tumors dissolved, demonstrating the potential for the theory.
The study suggests that pollution and smoking are major factors in the increased risk of cancer. It also points to the role of unhealthy diet and lack of exercise in modern-day cancer incidence. However, it highlights interesting points about cancer history that warrant further study. So, what is the best way to prevent cancer? The answer isn’t always as simple as taking a vitamin or exercising. It depends on how you define “health” and “the lifestyle of an individual.
In 1881, the cause of erysipelas was unknown. But a physician named Bruns deliberately injected a patient with streptococcal bacteria to treat a cancer patient. The patient experienced a pronounced reduction in malignancy. Later in the century, a doctor named Coley found 47 cases of tumour regression due to infection. This was the first time that the term “leukemia” became a widely used medical term.