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According to reports, researchers claim that they have found the earliest evidence of the presence of cancers and tumours in a bone that is said to dates almost two million years back.
The findings has brought up new questions, particularly the ones challenging the notion that cancers and tumours are diseases that are caused in modern life due to certain changes in the lifestyle of the human beings.
Commenting on the findings, one of the researchers and doctoral candidate at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa, Edward Odes said, “Modern medicine tends to assume that cancers and tumors in humans are diseases caused by modern lifestyles and environments. Our studies show the origins of these diseases occurred in our ancient relatives millions of years before modern industrial societies existed.”
The researchers said that they found a foot bone infected with cancer which was around 1.7 million years ago at the Swartkrans cave in South Africa. Although the species of the bone is not known yet, the researchers said that it is a hominin, or bipedal human relative. The researchers later also found a benign tumour which was present in the vertebrae of a 2 million years old Australopithecus sediba child. The discovery was made in Malapa cave in South Africa.
The researchers said that the cancer found in the foot bone of the species was particularly an aggressive form known as osteosarcoma. Until the recent discovery, the oldest known tumour was found in the rib of a 120,000 year old Neanderthal.
Researcher Bernhard Zipfel, in a news release, stated, “Due to its preservation, we don’t know whether the single cancerous foot bone belongs to an adult or child, nor whether the cancer caused the death of this individual, but we can tell this would have affected the individual’s ability to walk or run.”
The findings of the report were published in the South African Journal of Science on July 28.