Many people wonder why cancer is more common today than it was two hundred years ago. It seems as though the rate of cancer has increased dramatically, particularly since the Industrial Revolution. The reason for this increase is unclear, but scientists do know that specific cancers have emerged in the past two hundred years. Let’s take a closer look at why cancer is more common today than it was two hundred years ago.
In rich countries, tobacco is responsible for about 20 percent of all cancer deaths. In poorer countries, tobacco use is responsible for less than one percent of all cancer deaths. Lung, stomach, colon, and lung cancer still represent the largest burden of death, but their rates have declined. In poorer countries, cancer death rates have been lower or stagnant since the industrial revolution, and a small portion of cancer deaths are caused by alcohol or tobacco use.
While smoking, poor diet, and a lack of physical activity are major factors in the rise of cancer rates, a new study suggests that a poorer diet and pollution may also contribute to the rise in cancer incidence. Overall, the study makes some interesting observations about the history of cancer. Cancer rates in the developed world are nearly ten times higher than they were two centuries ago. For poorer countries, however, the rates are far lower than in high-income nations.