Archeologists’ Discovery Proves Cancer Not a New Worry
The discovery of a 3,000 year-old human skeleton is proof that cancer is not a modern-day illness. Originally reported in the academic journal PLOS ONE, the discovery was made by a Durham University PhD student in a tomb in modern Sudan in 2013. The most complete skeleton this old with metastatic cancer dates back to 1200BC. A Science Daily news article explains that the skeleton was that of a young adult male which had evidence of metastatic carcinoma which had spread to other parts of the body from the originally infected site, a malignant soft-tissue tumor that covered large areas of the body.
Researchers intend to use the skeleton to help them determine causes of cancer in past populations in order to gain insight into the evolution of cancer. The study of ancient DNA from mummies and skeletons with evidence indicating cancer allows researchers to detect specific gene mutations known to be associated with particular types of cancer.
The discovery of the skeleton is important news, as cancer is hardly a part of the archaeological record when compared to other pathological conditions. It has long been thought that this indicated cancer was a modern disease. Now, researchers see that not only is cancer a leading cause of death today, it was already present to some degree during ancient times in the Nile Valley. Previously, only one other convincing specimen of metastatic cancer had been found, along with two that were considered tentative. However, these were skulls only, leaving researchers without the evidence to fully evaluate the conditions.