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Prostate cancer discovered in 2,200 year old mummy

Published on 31/01/2012

Prostate cancer has been discovered in the body of a 2,200 year old mummy, indicating that the disease was caused by genetics, not the environment.

Researchers studied the unnamed Ptolemaic mummy, which is kept at the National Archaeology Museum of Lisbon, for 2 years.

Writing in the International Journal of Paleopathology, researchers say that the mummy was that of a 5ft5 adult male who lived between 285 and 230BC, who was between 51 and 60 years old when he died.

The team subjected the mummy, known as M1, to powerful Multi Detector Computerized Tomography (MDCT) scans, which produced 'really unusual high quality images’.

They found a pattern of round and dense tumours, measuring between 0.03 and 0.59 inches, around its pelvis and lumbar spine, giveaway signs of prostate cancer.

Researchers considered other diseases as alternatives. But M1's sex, age, the distribution pattern of the lesions, their shape and density, strongly suggested prostate cancer.

This the is second oldest known case of prostate cancer- the oldest coming from a 2,700 year old skeleton of a king in Russia.

Professor Salima Ikram, of the American University in Cairo, Egypt, said: ‘Living conditions in ancient times were very different; there were no pollutants or modified foods, which leads us to believe that the disease is not necessarily only linked to industrial factors.’

Paula Veiga, a researcher in Egyptology, said: 'This study shows that cancer did exist in antiquity, for sure in ancient Egypt. The main reason for the scarcity of examples found today might be the lower prevalence of carcinogens and the shorter life expectancy.’

Medical developments have certainly improved since 285BC. Prostate cancer drugs like cabazitaxel, shown to extend the life of advanced prostate cancer sufferers by an extra ten weeks, are now available for patients with private medical insurance.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012

Categories:  Medical
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