An autopsy at the time cited stomach cancer as the cause of death. A study done in 1938 indicated that Napoleon's father died of stomach cancer. In 1961, an elevated level of arsenic was found in hair taken from Napoleon, inspiring rumors of arsenic poisoning.
To find answers, Dr. Genta and the other researchers combined current medical knowledge and autopsy reports, memoirs of the physicians who treated Napoleon on the island, eyewitness accounts and medical histories of family members.
Autopsy and physician descriptions revealed no telltale signs of arsenic poisoning, such as hemorrhaging in the lining inside the heart, and no skin, lung or bladder cancers were present.
Gastric cancer was more likely at fault, Dr. Genta said. Other scholars have recently found that the plump emperor lost at least 20 pounds in the last six months of his life, a sign of gastric cancer. The autopsy descriptions show that Napoleon's stomach was filled with a dark material that resembled coffee grounds, an indication of gastrointestinal bleeding that likely was the immediate cause of death, Dr. Genta said. The most important description was of a large, ulcerated lesion on his stomach, and a smaller ulcerated lesion in another part of his stomach that had penetrated the wall and reached the liver.
The researchers ?obviously unable to observe the body ?compared the original descriptions of the lesions with modern images of 50 benign ulcers and 50 gastric cancers. They determined that no benign cancer could look like the lesion described in the autopsy.
"It was a huge mass from the entrance of his stomach to the exit. It was at least 10 centimeters long. Size alone suggests the lesion was cancer," Dr. Genta said.
They then used a st
Source:UT Southwestern Medical Center