• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

3200-year-old skeleton with cancer could help research into the disease

Archaeologists have found a complete 3200-year-old skeleton with cancer and say the discovery could help show how the disease has evolved.

The remains of the wealthy man aged 25-35 were found in a tomb close to the River Nile in Sudan by Durham University student Michaela Binder last year.

The bones showed evidence of metastatic carcinoma - cancer that has spread from where it started.

Analysis proved it came from a malignant soft-tissue tumour and spread across large parts of the body, making it the oldest "convincing" example of metastatic cancer ever found, said the authors of the study, which is published in the academic journal PLOS One.

Researchers from Durham University and the British Museum said the discovery would help to explore underlying causes of cancer in ancient times and provide insights into the evolution of cancer in the past.

Although it is one of the leading causes of death today, it is extremely rare in archaeological finds compared to other detectable killers.

This has led scientists to conclude cancer is a product of modern lifestyles and increased longevity.

But the discovery shows cancer did exist in the Nile Valley in 1200BC.

Ms Binder, the lead author from Durham University's Archaeology Department, said: "This may help us to understand the almost unknown history of the disease.

"We have very few examples pre the first millennium AD.

"We need to understand the history of the disease to better understand how it evolved and for that it is important to find more examples."

Contextual targeting label: 
Health

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

220218