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The history of cancer describes the development of the field of oncology and its role in the history of medicine.

1938 poster identifying surgery, x-rays and radium as the proper treatments for cancer.

Therapies[When Marie Curie and Pierre Curie discovered radiation at the end of the 19th century, they stumbled upon the first effective non-surgical cancer treatment. With radiation also came the first signs of multi-disciplinary approaches to cancer treatment. The surgeon was no longer operating in isolation, but worked together with hospital radiologists to help patients. The complications in communication this brought, along with the necessity of the patient's treatment in a hospital facility rather than at home, also created a parallel process of compiling patient data into hospital files, which in turn led to the first statistical patient studies.

The American Cancer Society was founded in 1913 by 15 physicians and businessmen in New York City under the name American Society for the Control of Cancer (ASCC). The current name was adopted in 1945.[8]

A founding paper of cancer epidemiology was the work of Janet Lane-Claypon, who published a comparative study in 1926 of 500 breast cancer cases and 500 control patients of the same background and lifestyle for the British Ministry of Health. Her ground-breaking work on cancer epidemiology was carried on by Richard Doll and Austin Bradford Hill, who published "Lung Cancer and Other Causes of Death In Relation to Smoking. A Second Report on the Mortality of British Doctors" followed in 1956 (otherwise kno

The American Cancer Society was founded in 1913 by 15 physicians and businessmen in New York City under the name American Society for the Control of Cancer (ASCC). The current name was adopted in 1945.[8]

A founding paper of cancer epidemiology was the work of Janet Lane-Claypon, who published a comparative study in 1926 of 500 breast cancer cases and 500 control patients of the same background and lifestyle for the British Ministry of Health. Her ground-breaking work on cancer epidemiology was carried on by Richard Doll and Austin Bradford Hill, who published "Lung Cancer and Other Causes of Death In Relation to Smoking. A Second Report on the Mortality of British Doctors" followed in 1956 (otherwise known as the British doctors study). Richard Doll left the London Medical Research Center (MRC), to start the Oxford unit for Cancer epidemiology in 1968. With the use of computers, the unit was the first to compile large amounts of cancer data. Modern epidemiological methods are closely linked to current[when?] concepts of disease and public health policy. Over the past 50 years, great efforts have been spent on gathering data across medical practice, hospital, provincial, state, and even country boundaries to study the interdependence of environmental and cultural factors on cancer incidence.

Cancer patient treatment and studies were restricted to individual physicians' practices until World War II, when medical research centers discovered that there were large international differences in disease incidence. This insight drove national public health bodies to enable the compilation of health data across practices and hospitals, a process found in many countries today. The Japanese medical community observed that the bone marrow of victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was completely destroyed. They concluded that diseased bone marrow could also be destroyed with radiation, and this led to the development of bone marrow transplants for leukemia. Since World War II, trends in cancer treatment are to improve on a micro-level the existing treatment methods, standardize them, and globalize them to find cures through epidemiology and international partnerships.

In 1968 Michael A. Epstein, Bert Achong, and Yvonne Barr identified the first human cancer virus, called the Epstein–Barr virus.[9]

The political 'war' on cancer began with the National Cancer Act of 1971, a United States federal law.[10] The act was intended "to amend the Public Health Service Act so as to strengthen the National Cancer Institute in order to more effectively carry out the national effort against cancer". It was signed into law by then U.S. President Richard Nixon on December 23, 1971.[11]

In 1973, cancer research led to a cold war incident,[12] where co-operative samples of reported oncoviruses were discovered to be contaminated by HeLa.

In 1984, Harald zur Hausen disco

In 1973, cancer research led to a cold war incident,[12] where co-operative samples of reported oncoviruses were discovered to be contaminated by HeLa.

In 1984, Harald zur Hausen discovered first HPV16 and then HPV18 responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancers. For discovery that human papillomaviruses (HPV) cause human cancer, zur Hausen won a 2008 Nobel Prize.[13]

Since 1971 the United States has invested over $200 billion on cancer research; that total includes money invested by public and private sectors and foundations.[14]

Despite this substantial investment, the country has seen just a five percent decrease in the cancer death rate (adjusting for size and age of the population) between 1950 and 2005.[15] Longer life expectancy may be a contributing factor to this, as cancer rates and mortality rates increase significantly with age, more than three out of five cancers are diagnosed in people aged 65 and over.[16]