• Question: when was cancer first discovered and who found it?

    Asked by sciencesweat to Bethany, Hannah, Keith, Peter on 25 Jun 2014.
    • Photo: Peter Elliott

      Peter Elliott answered on 25 Jun 2014:

      So according to a brief investigation it appears the Egyptians were the first people to document cancer, although they probably didn’t call it that. There are ancient scrolls that talk about the removal of growths on breast that date back to 1600 BC.
      Hippocrates (460 to 370 BC) was the first person to name the growth as cancer.

    • Photo: Bethany Dearlove

      Bethany Dearlove answered on 25 Jun 2014:

      I agree with Peter, the Egyptians were the first to describe cancer, as revealed in some papyrus scrolls in the late 1800s. Whilst reading about this, I wondered where the name ‘cancer’ comes from. Hippocrates referred to cancer as the Greek ‘carcinos, meaning crab – this is what he thought tumours looked like, with veins stretched out on the sides like crab legs. You might be familiar with the term ‘carcinogenic’, which refer to substances that cause cancer. Celsus then translated the Greek into the Latin cancer, which also means crab. If you have a birthday between 22nd June and 22nd July, you probably already know that, as in the zodiac Cancer is represented by the crab.