A new controversial study has determined that cancer is a man-made disease caused by environmental factors such as pollution and diet and has become increasingly common in the modern society.

Researchers examined hundreds of Egyptian mummies and found the presence of the disease in only one mummy. Rectal cancer was found.

According to researcher, Michael Zimmerman of Villanova University in Pennsylvania, “cancer-causing factors are limited to societies affected by modern industrialization."

Zimmerman made the first ever histological diagnosis of cancer in an Egyptian mummy.

Cancer has become a leading cause of death worldwide and in second place following cardiovascular diseases. In 2004 roughly 12.5% of deaths were caused by cancer according to reports from the WorldHealth Organization.

“There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease,down to pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle,” said Professor Rosalie David, at Manchester University's Faculty of Life Sciences.

“The important thing about our study is that it gives a historical perspective to this disease. We can make very clear statements on the cancer rates in societies because we have a full overview,” David added.

The research findings are published in the October issue of the Nature Reviews Cancer journal.