Newly Discovered Ancient Bone Exhibits Proof Of Cancer In Human Ancestor

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Archaeology students dug into an excavation site at the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa in September 2015. A foot bone belonging to a hominid was discovered in a nearby cave and it exhibits the oldest known proof of malignant cancer in a human ancestor.

A couple of researchers at the Radiography and Tomography Section of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation assessed the bone employing a high-resolution X-ray technique that the conclusion was re-assessed, the researchers stated in their paper that was published yesterday. The tandem scanned the bone in sections, and a separate team from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg put together the photos of those sections into a detailed 3-D image.

Peering into the 3-dimensional cross section, it was evident that the mass was not benign but it was rather malignant cancer that has an “irregular spongy woven bone texture with a cauliflower-like external appearance,” the authors stated.

With regards to what type of bone cancer this hominin had suffered from, the scientists were still not certain but they think that it was a variant of osteosarcoma. At present, the American Cancer Society said that osteosarcoma is the most common kind of cancer that flourishes in bones.

The tumor found in the hominin is at odd with the prehistoric sample of cancer. Proof of malignant tumors has been discovered in the bones of a dinosaur. Numerous scientists think tumors, which are the outcome of uncontrolled cell growth was already present by the time multicellular organisms appeared on the planet.

 Scientists had also discovered evidence of prostate cancer from the ancient Egyptian mummies. A medieval man that was found in what is now called as the Czech Republic showed a case of osteosarcoma in the skull.

The authors of the study noted:

“Whilst most modern human malignancies are thought to be caused by environmental agents of a chemical nature, the evidence for this is not entirely conclusive… Whilst the explosion of malignancy incidence [today] is clearly correlated with the hazards of the modern world and increased life expectancy, primary bone tumors evidently occurred throughout history.”

Source: NPR

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