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Cancer detected in young man's skeleton from ancient Egypt

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/20/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Significant find as it points to causes of cancer before the onset of modern lifestyles

Too often, cancer is believed to be the cause of a modern lifestyle - many common cancers are linked to such bad habits as smoking and obesity. The scourge of cancer, however, has always been with us. Researchers have unearthed the skeleton of a young man who lived in ancient Egypt who suffered from cancer.

There have been some previous hints of the disease in archaeological records. A U.S. researcher published details of a 120,000-year-old fossilized Neanderthal rib that showed indications of a bone tumor.

There have been some previous hints of the disease in archaeological records. A U.S. researcher published details of a 120,000-year-old fossilized Neanderthal rib that showed indications of a bone tumor.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/20/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Cancer, ancient Egypt, skeleton, medical research


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It's the earliest confirmed case of cancer. Dating back to around 1,200 BC, the discovery was made at the Amara West site in northern Sudan. The finding is one of many confirmations that the disease has its roots in the distant past.

Discovered by Michaela Binder, a PhD student at Durham University, she said the find was of "critical importance in learning about the underlying causes of cancer in ancient populations, before the onset of modern lifestyles."

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Binder's discovery suggests that the disease was prevalent thousands of years ago. "I was surprised to see such a cancer in an individual from ancient Egyptian times," she told reporters.

"We still don't know a lot about cancer. Only a very few examples have been found of the disease in the distant past."

Binder's finding is of particular interest because it is 2,000 years older than the previously confirmed instance of the disease.

When she unearthed the skeleton she found that the bones were riddled with holes. Working with Daniel Antoine, a curator at the British Museum, Binder says that Antoine is responsible for the museum's human remains.

"It was very exciting to work with such a well preserved skeleton," he told reporters. "The marks on the bones were very clear and our analysis showed that there was evidence that the young man suffered from a type of cancer."

According to Dr Kat Arney of Cancer Research U.K., the discovery will be of great interest to medical researchers. "If they can analyze the DNA from the skeleton, it might tell us about the gene mutations that made [this person] susceptible to this type of cancer. That could shed light on the evolution of the disease, along with the evolution of humankind."

There have been some previous hints of the disease in archaeological records. A U.S. researcher published details of a 120,000-year-old fossilized Neanderthal rib that showed indications of a bone tumor.

There have been other finds from around 4,000 years back that show some similar signs. But without a full skeleton to show the spread of the disease, it is hard to confirm that these specimens actually had cancer.

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