Research scientists in Rhodesia are making an investigation into the causes of cancer following a report late last year indicating that cancer forms in Rhodesia vary significantly to the remainder of the world.
Cancer research centres in Salisbury; scientist examining arsenical hyperkeratosis; burns and tumors on Africans; mine residue research.
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Background: Research scientists in Rhodesia are making an investigation into the causes of cancer following a report late last year indicating that cancer forms in Rhodesia vary significantly to the remainder of the world. The report was made to the World Health Organisation by a Bulawayo radio-therapist treating cancer patients.
The report stated that nearly 90 per cent of the cancer found among Europeans in Rhodesia were malignancies in the form of skin cancer. Three reasons were given for this high incidence: the geographical altitude of Rhodesia, providing an ideal situation for the penetration of ultra-violet radiation; the long hours of strong sunshine general throughout the country; and the outdoor occupations and pastimes of the Europeans.
However, the significant sections of the report dealt with the more peculiar malignancies apparent among the African population. A generally high incidence of primary liver cancer was discovered among a tribe whose staple diet is peanuts. The tribes people, the Losi, bury the nuts underground. A fungus grows on the nuts, producing afloxin which in turn has been found to produce liver tumors.
Skin cancer was found to be common among Africans who had been burned or scarred. The Africans, said the report, are believed to have a natural ultra-violet filter as part of their dark pigmentation. But where the protective skin tissue is damaged cancerous malignancies are prone to appear.
The highest incidence among Rhodesian Africans of cancer is cancer of the lung, found predominantly in mine workers, and particularly among workers from gold mines. Research has shown that gold is mined in arsenic bearing ground, and the presence of arsenic is believed to be one of several factors causing cancer. However, scientists discount the theory that arsenic itself is responsible for the majority of lung tumors, and further research is being conducted to isolate other chemicals in mine residue that contribute to the development of lung cancer.