Archaeologists found a 3,200-year-old skeleton with lesions from a soft tissue metastatic cancer, making it the oldest evidence of cancer known.
The find surprises scientists as cancer is mostly considered a modern disease, brought on by modern living conditions. The skeleton, found in Sudan, is of wealthy man who died around the age of 30. He had cancerous legions on his collar bones, shoulder blades, upper arms, vertebrae, ribs, pelvis, and thigh bones.
Researchers are not sure what caused the cancer but speculate it could have been caused by carcinogens from the smoke of wood fires, genetic factors, or the result of an infectious, parasitic disease.
Scientists are excited that the find could shed some light on the disease and help develop modern medicine to combat cancer.
"This may help us to understand the almost unknown history of the disease." said Michaela Binder, lead author from Durham University's Archaeology Department. "We have very few examples from [before] the first millennium AD. We need to understand the history of the disease and how it evolved and for that it is important to find more examples."
Binder and co-author Dr. Neal Spencer continue to explore the site on the upper Nile for further insight into the lives of its inhabitants.