‘Cancer is proof God doesn’t exist’: ex-MP

Umberto Veronesi, an oncologist and former health minister, has said that concentration camp Auschwitz and cancer are "proof that God doesn't exist".

'Cancer is proof God doesn't exist': ex-MP
Umberto Veronesi recently stepped down as scientific director of the European Institute of Oncology (IEO). Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Veronesi, 88, made the comments in his new autobiographical book, The Craft of Man (Il mestiere di uomo).

“I have come across something more unexplainable than war: cancer,” he was quoted in Il Messaggero as saying.

“After Auschwitz, cancer is further proof that God does not exist,” said Veronesi, who was called up to join the Italian army in the 1940s.

Despite growing up in a strongly Catholic country, Veronesi said his work could not be reconciled with religion.

“My choice to become a doctor is fundamentally tied to original research,” he said, which clashes with “the concept that God cannot be explained”.

“I couldn’t tell you which was my first day without God. Certainly, after the experience of war, I no longer stepped into a church, but the decline in trust started long before,” said Veronesi, describing the “Catholic doctrine” he experienced at school.

Veronesi recently stepped down as scientific director of the European Institute of Oncology (IEO), but continues to play a role in Italian health issues.

Last year, he weighed into the debate on e-cigarettes, calling on the government to change their approach to the controversial new product. Tobacco-free cigarettes could save 30,000 lives in Italy a year, Veronesi said, and should be seen as a chance to improve public health.

READ MORE: 'E-cigarettes could save 30,000 Italian lives a year'

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Cancer was common in Renaissance Italy, studies of Naples mummies show

Cancer is not a disease of the modern world, according to a newly published study which examined Renaissance mummies preserved in Naples.

Cancer was common in Renaissance Italy, studies of Naples mummies show
A picture showing King Ferrante (left), one of the Renaissance nobles found to have had a cancerous tumour. Image: Beinecke Digital Library/Public Domain

The research team from Pisa University found three cases of malignant tumours in the mummies, including in a duke, a king, and a prince.

And the findings mean that medical assumptions that cancer was extremely rare in antiquity “should be revised”, according to the three scientists behind the study, which was published in medical journal The Lancet.

The presence of tumours in the mummies could suggest that the disease is not as strongly connected to modern lifestyle factors as has been thought. The reason it has rarely been identified in past populations may be due more to shorter lifespans and the difficulty in detecting the tumours in surviving remains, the study's authors claimed.

Though the team studied only 11 mummies in total, the prevalence of cancer in the sample was 27 percent – close to the 31 percent found in high income countries today.

“We can hypothesize that cancer must have been frequent after age 50–60 years, at least in the Renaissance elite classes with specific alimentary and lifestyle habits,” noted the authors of the study.

The remains all belonged to members of the Aragonese court, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, and were preserved in the Neapolitan Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore.

The mummies found to have malignant tumours were all aged between 55 and 71, and because they belonged to the upper classes, would have been able to afford more extravagant food than was typical for the population of the time, including fats and sugars.

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File photo: Maridav/Deposit Photos