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Mighty Conqueror Felled by Stomach Cancer

Napoleon met his Waterloo twice, the second time proving fatal, at the hands of stomach cancer, according to experts.

Researchers from US, Switzerland and Canada have put to rest a mystery of 200 years, // regarding the cause of death of the French conqueror.

The most recent theory, running since the 1961 discovery of arsenic in two strands of Napoleons’ hair was that the ruler’s death was due to arsenic poisoning.

Publishing results in the journal Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology & Hepatology, the researchers attributed the death of Napoleon to internal bleeding caused by stomach cancer. This is believed to have been brought on by an ulcer-causing bacterial infection.

The finding derived through modern pathological analysis technology involved a study of data from 135 gastric cancer patients. In addition were autopsy reports, family medical histories, eyewitness accounts and Bonaparte’s memoirs.

The original autopsy descriptions indicated that Bonaparte’s stomach had two ulcerated lesions: a large one on the stomach and a smaller one that had pierced through the stomach wall and reached the liver.

Lead study author, Robert Genta of University of Texas Southwestern Genta and his colleagues compared the description of these lesions with current images of 50 benign ulcers and 50 gastric cancers and found that the emperor’s lesions were cancerous.

Genta says,” It was a huge mass from the entrance of his stomach to the exit. It was at least 10 centimeters [4 inches] long. Size alone suggests the lesion was cancer.”

The conqueror of most of Europe, defeated at Waterloo and exiled to an island in the South Atlantic, had grown pale and lost 10 to 15 kilograms in the two months leading up to his death. He threw up blood, complained of constant stomach pain, and suffered night sweats that forced him to change clothes several times a day, the study said. He died May 5, 1821, at the age of 51.

“Even today, with the availability of sophisticated surgical techniques and chemotherapies, patients with gastric cancer as advanced as Napoleon’s have a poor prognosis. Even if treated today, he’d have been dead within a year,” according to Genta .

Researchers attribute the occurrence of gastric cancer to a military diet high in salt content and low in fresh fruits and due a chronic infection by the bacteria H.pylori.


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