Link #52: Cancer Was Present 3,000 Years Ago Too!


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Link #52: Cancer Was Present 3,000 Years Ago Too!

Scanning electron microscopy image of a lymphocyte. By Dr. Triche National Cancer Institute PD image

In the modern world, we think that cancer is caused by our own actions. Causes of cancer, as per most people, include a longer lifespan, a penchant for smoking, obesity resulting out of inactivity, and various types of pollution. This belief is held by people from one corner of the world to the other.

However, evidence to the contrary was recently discovered in Sudan. Sudan may not have Hala’ib Triangle and may not want Bir Tawil (as we described in our last post) but what it does have is the oldest proof that cancer is not a result of modern lifestyles. This evidence is a 3,000-year-old skeleton that shows signs of cancer.

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How Was The Skeleton Discovered?

Nile River Banks, Uganda
Nile River Banks, Uganda. Image credit: Rod Waddington cc2.0

The skeleton was found by researchers from the United Kingdom in the northern region of Sudan. The place of the find is known as Amara West and is located on the banks of the Nile. In fact, the researchers discovered some 180 skeletons on the site with the majority of them displaying some type of disease.

The skeletons found in the region all date back to 1,200 BC. As per scientists, that was a period full of different types of instabilities such as climatic changes and stresses related to the immediate environment.

How Did They Discover That The Man Had Cancer?

Cut surface of a liver showing multiple paler metastatic nodules originating from pancreatic cancer. PD image

When the scientists found the skeleton, they decided to analyse it with advanced techniques such as an electron microscope scan and radiography. The analysis revealed lesions on the bone.

As per the experts, the lesions were typical of soft tissue cancer and show that the person had died because of a form of soft tissue cancer. The type of cancer found in the body is known as metastatic cancer which means that the cancer had travelled from one organ in the body to another.

In fact, the analysis showed that the ancient man had damage all over his body because of cancer. Cancerous damage was found in his ribs, collarbones, breast bone, shoulder blades, spine, and even the pelvis. However, what significance does the discovery that there was cancer 3,000 years ago hold for us?

Why Is Finding a 3,000-Year-Old Skeleton with Cancer Important?

Cure for cancer
Cure for cancer. Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski cc2.0

The fact that cancer existed 3,000 years ago debunks the belief that cancer is a result of modern lifestyles. While it is an ailment that is caused by environmental problems and difficult lifestyles, these causes don’t have to be associated with modern technology and ways of living.

In addition to this, knowing how cancer grew and worked thousands of years ago may give scientists an understanding of how the disease itself evolved. This would, in turn, help them find a way to cure it or even prevent it.

Have They Found Any Other Evidence of Cancer in Ancient Times?

While the skeletal remains found in Sudan may be the earliest to exhibit cancer, there have been instances of other such finds as well. At the same time, cancer wasn’t very common.

Before these skeletal remains were discovered, the oldest instance of cancer was found in a skeleton in Russia that was 2,700 years old. Those skeletal remains were full of tumours which is also a form of cancer.

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