In addition to support of quinine's use for malaria; this father of occupational diseases had observations on breast cancer too!
Posted November 2nd, 2014
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Bernardino Ramazzini (3 November 1633 – 5 November 1714) was an Italian physician. Ramazzini was an early proponent of the use of cinchona bark in the treatment of Malaria. His most important contribution to medicine was his book on occupational diseases, De Morbis Artificum Diatriba ("Diseases of Workers").


Ramazzini was born in Carpi on 3 November 1633. He studied medicine at the University of Parma, where his interest in occupational diseases began. He was appointed to the chair of theory of medicine at University of Modena in 1682 then served as professor of medicine at the University of Padua from 1700 until his death. He is often called "the father of occupational medicine".


The first edition of De Morbis was published in 1700 in Modena, the second in 1713 in Padua. His book on occupational diseases, De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (Diseases of Workers) outlined the health hazards of chemicals, dust, metals, repetitive or violent motions, odd postures, and other disease-causative agents encountered by workers in 52 occupations. This was one of the founding and seminal works of occupational medicine and played a substantial role in its development.


He proposed that physicians should extend the list of questions that Hippocrates recommended they ask their patients by adding, "What is your occupation?" In regards to malaria, Ramazzini was one of the first to support the use of the quinine-rich bark cinchona. Many falsely claimed that quinine was toxic and ineffective, but Ramazzini recognized its importance. He quoted, "It (quinine) did for medicine what gun powder did for war."


In 1713, Bernardino Ramazzini said that nuns developed breast cancer at a higher rate than married women because they did not engage in sexual intercourse, and the "unnatural" lack of sexual activity caused instability of the breast tissues that sometimes developed into breast cancer. In a lifestyle article "Sitting can lead to an early death," the writer acknowledged Ramazzini's pioneering study of this field in the 17th century.


Ramazzini died in Padua on 5 November 1714.


Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by parasitic protozoans (a type of single cell microorganism) of the Plasmodium type. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, fatigue, vomiting and headaches. In severe cases it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma or death. These symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten. In those who have not been appropriately treated disease may recur months later. 


In those who have recently survived an infection, re-infection typically causes milder symptoms. This partial resistance disappears over months to years if there is no ongoing exposure to malaria. Commonly, the disease is transmitted by the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. This bite introduces the parasites from the mosquito's saliva into a person's blood. The parasites then travel to the liver where they mature and reproduce. Five species of Plasmodium can infect and be spread by humans. Malaria is typically diagnosed by the microscopic examination of blood using blood films, or with antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests.


Breast cancer is the development of cancer from breast tissue. Signs of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, or a red scaly patch of skin. In those with distant spread of the disease, there may be bone pain, swollen lymph nodes, shortness of breath, or yellow skin.


Risk factors for developing breast cancer include obesity, lack of physical exercise, drinking alcohol, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, ionizing radiation, early age at first menstruation, and having children late or not at all. Breast cancer most commonly develops in cells from the lining of milk ducts and the lobules that supply the ducts with milk. Cancers developing from the ducts are known as ductal carcinomas, while those developing from lobules are known as lobular carcinomas. In addition, there are more than 18 other sub-types of breast cancer. Some cancers develop from pre-invasive lesions such as ductal carcinoma in situ. The diagnosis of breast cancer is confirmed by taking a biopsy of the concerning lump. Once the diagnosis is made, further tests are done to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the breast and which treatments it may respond to.


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