9 things you may not know about cancer

Interesting facts about the world’s biggest health challenge

The word ‘cancer’ comes from the Latin for ‘crab’ – just like the zodiac sign

Early doctors, when describing certain tumours which had veins or extensions from the main body, called them crab-like, or ‘cancerous’.

Cancer was first described by the ancient Egyptians

The earliest description of cancer was found in the Edwin Smith Papyrus dating back to 1600 B.C. The document describes breast tumours removed by a tool called the fire drill. However, it states that "there is no treatment".

There are more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning than lung cancer cases due to smoking

A recent study showed there are more than 419,000 new skin cancer cases attributable to indoor tanning each year in the US alone.

More than half of all cancers are preventable

Researchers believe that over half of all cancer cases – and up to half of all cancer deaths – are preventable. This means there are between 2.4 million and 3.7 million avoidable deaths per year, 80% of which occur in low- and middle-income countries.

There are more than 200 types and subtypes of cancer

Cancer is not one disease. In the last 10 years we have realised that there are more than 200 different types and subtypes of cancer. This has triggered a shift away from a one-size-fits-all approach and toward "tailored therapy".

Naked mole rats are immune to cancer

The body of these subterranean African mammals is rich in a substance called hyaluronan, which acts as a lubricant in the body and stops cancers growing. This discovery could lead to treatments for cancer in the future.

There are 28 million cancer survivors worldwide

Thankfully, cancer is not always a death sentence – particularly with the progress made in recent decades. Although incidence of cancer is increasing, in many countries more people are surviving cancer than ever before.

Only 5-10% of all cancers are entirely hereditary

Most cancers develop through a combination of hereditary and environmental factors, including smoking, alcohol, obesity and diet.

Breast cancer is more common in the left breast than the right

The left breast is 5 - 10% more likely to develop cancer than the right breast. The left side of the body is also 10% more prone to melanoma (a type of skin cancer). Nobody is exactly sure why this is.

All photography is for illustrative purposes only and all persons depicted are models.

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