Die vroegste bekende borskanker is in die ou Egiptiese skelet geïdentifiseer

Die vroegste bekende borskanker is in die ou Egiptiese skelet geïdentifiseer

Volgens die Spaanse antropoloë wat haar oorskot in 'n nekropolis in Egipte ontdek het, is 'n 4200-jarige skelet wat tekens van agteruitgang van kanker toon, die vroegste geval van borskanker. Hulle dink die vrou se borskanker het metastaseer (versprei) na haar bene.

Die vonds hierdie maand in Qubbet el-Hawa naby die stad Aswan in die suide en 'n Soedannese vonds in 2014 dui daarop dat kanker lankal in die Nylvallei-gebied voorkom. Die vrou wat hierdie maand opgegrawe is, was 'n aristokraat uit Elephantine, die mees suidelike stad in Egipte.

Die graf van Sarenput II in die Qubbet el-Hawa-nekropolis, naby waar die oorblyfsels van 'n ou Egiptiese vrou met kanker gevind is, bevat hierdie pragtige muurskildery. ( Afgeleide werk van Daniel Csörföly /Wikimedia Commons )

Alhoewel kanker byna nie meer bestaan ​​in die argeologiese geskiedenis van ou mense nie, is dit wêreldwyd die tweede oorsaak van dood ná hartsiektes.

Terwyl die moderne lewenstyl van ryk kos, rook, vetsug en gifstowwe in die omgewing as 'n vernaamste oorsaak van kanker beskou word, sê sommige navorsers dat die feit dat mense langer leef die hoofrede is.

MEER

Cancer Research UK sê driekwart van die gevalle van kanker word gediagnoseer by mense 60 en ouer, en 36 persent by mense 75 of ouer. Die groep se webwerf sê:

Die suggestie dat kanker in die ou bevolking skaarser was, is glad nie verbasend nie. Maar dit is nie net as gevolg van ons moderne lewenswyse nie. Dit is omdat ons vandag langer leef as op enige stadium in die geskiedenis. Honderde of duisende jare gelede was die lewensverwagting kort. Baie mense sterf in die middeljarige ouderdom aan aansteeklike siektes, en die dood tydens bevalling of kinderjare was ook algemeen. ... Dit is dus nie verbasend dat kanker 'n seldsame gebeurtenis was in bevolkings waar mense waarskynlik nie die ouderdom van 40 sou haal nie.

Alhoewel kanker 'n moderne siekte is, blyk dit dat daar in die ou tyd kanker was. Daar is verskeie onlangse vondste gevind van antieke oorblyfsels van mense wat die verwoestende siekte gehad het,

Ook verlede jaar in die Nylvallei het Britse navorsers die 3200-jarige skelet van 'n man met metastatiese kanker in 'n Soedanese graf gevind. Tot Maart 2014 was daar slegs een voorbeeld van metastatiese kanker wat die eerste millennium v.C. voorgekom het by menslike oorskot.

'N Navorser ondersoek die 3200-jarige, kanker deurtrek bene van 'n ou Soedanse man.

Die geraamte van die man is gevind in Amara -Wes, 750 kilometer stroomaf van die Soedannese hoofstad Khartoem. Hy is op sy rug begrawe in 'n geverfde houtkis met 'n geglasuurde amulet. Die bene van die 25- tot 35-jarige man het bewyse getoon van 'n kwaadaardige sagte tumor kanker wat versprei het. Toetse met behulp van radiografie en 'n skandeerelektronmikroskoop het duidelike beeldvorming van die letsels op die bene gebied, met kankermetastases op die kraagbene, skouerblaaie, bo -arms, werwels, ribbes, bekken en bobeen.

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Michaela Binder, die navorser van die Durham -universiteit in Engeland wat die ontdekking gemaak het, het gesê dat dit onmoontlik is om die presiese plek te bepaal waar die siekte ontstaan ​​het, maar dat die oorsaak moontlik omgewings was, byvoorbeeld as gevolg van karsinogene van houtbrandrook, genetiese of van die parasiet schistosomiasis, wat tot vandag toe nog kanker in die omgewing veroorsaak.

In Desember 2014 het navorsers aangekondig dat hulle die vroegste bekende kanker van enige aard gevind het, 'n Siberiese skelet van die Bronstydperk met gemetastaseerde kanker.

'Die 4500-jarige bene het aansienlike merke en gate, wat navorsers waarsku oor die verwoestende long- of prostaatkanker wat die ou man opgedoen het. Hierdie nuwe bewys van die siekte in ou bene toon aan dat kanker nie net 'n moderne verskynsel is nie, maar ook die antieke wêreld beïnvloed, 'het Liz Leafloor van Ancient Origins geskryf.

4500 jaar oue bene van die Siberiese man onthul dat hy aan kanker gesterf het. Navorsers het gevind wat die oudste geval van menslike kanker ter wêreld is. Krediet: Angela R. Lieverse et al.

Die oorskot toon dat die man 35 tot 45 jaar oud was toe hy dood is. Die kanker versprei deur sy hele liggaam, en die agteruitgang van sy bene laat hom onbeweeglik. Dit was amper seker dat diegene rondom hom sou besef het dat hy siek is. Hulle het hom in 'n ronde graf in die fetale posisie geplaas, sy knieë in sy bors opgetrek, en hy is begrawe met 'n skewe lepel onder meer. Hierdie tipe begrafnis is in teenstelling met ander destydse mans wat op hul rug begrawe is met visvang- of jaguitrusting.


Een van die grafgoed wat verband hou met die man van die Siberiese Bronstydperk - 'n unieke beenlepel met 'n gesnyde slingerhandvatsel.

In 'n ander geval het navorsers in Oktober 2014 gesê dat hulle bewyse van kanker gevind het in die 2500-jarige mummie van 'n vrou in die huidige Republiek van Altai, Rusland. Haar oorskot is in 1993 uit 'n begraafplaas opgegrawe, en die vonds is beskou as een van die belangrikste van laat 20 ste eeu Rusland.

Die vrou het 'n primêre gewas in die regterbors en regteraksiale limfkliere gehad met metastases. Dit is nie duidelik of die kanker die uiteindelike oorsaak van haar dood was nie, aangesien sy ook ly aan osteomiëlitis, 'n infeksie van die been of beenmurg en beduidende beserings, insluitend skedelbreuke, wat moontlik veroorsaak is deur val van 'n perd . Maar een ding is seker: die swak Ice Maiden, soos sy genoem word, sou baie pyn gely het.

Behalwe die sarkofaag met die mummie, is ses perde wat ryklik opgesaal en ingespan is en twee krygers gevind wat aandui dat die vrou uit 'n edele stam kom. Daar word vermoed dat die Altai -prinses en die twee krygers wat by haar gevind is, nomadiese Pazyryk -mense was.

Voorgestelde beeld: Navorsers het ontdek wat volgens hulle die oudste borskanker ter wêreld is. (Ministerie van Oudheid in Egipte)

Deur Mark Miller


Toe argeoloog Katie Hunt op 22 met eierstokkanker gediagnoseer is, het dit haar nuuskierigheid oor kanker veroorsaak en het sy gou bewyse gevind dat hierdie moderne moordenaar 'n verrassend ou siekte is. Deur te kyk na ou tekste en argeologiese navorsing uit die verlede en antieke oorblyfsels te ontleed, het sy fisiese sowel as tekstuele bewyse van kanker in die oudheid geïdentifiseer. Hunt, wat nou 'n baanbreker is in die ontluikende dissipline van paleo-onkologie, lê die basis vir die versameling, organisering en ontleding van relevante data, sodat ons ons kennis oor die verlede van kanker kan uitbrei en kan uitvind hoe ons dit beter kan beveg in die toekoms. Sy vertel ons meer.

Grawe in Egipte, worstel met 'n diagnose. "As voorgraadse student is ek genooi om as assistent -osteoloog veldwerk in Egiptiese Vallei van die Konings te doen," sê Hunt. 'Ek was al geïnteresseerd in bene en wat hulle ons oor die verlede en die hede kan vertel. Maar gedurende hierdie tydperk is kanker by my gediagnoseer, en ek het anders begin dink oor bio-argeologie. Ek het gewonder: het daar in die verlede selfs kanker bestaan? Indien wel, hoe het dit die mense dan, hul gesinne, die samelewing beïnvloed? ” Hunt het hierdie nuuskierigheid in 'n navorsingsonderwerp verander, en uiteindelik 'n magdom historiese literatuur ontdek wat kanker in die antieke samelewing genoem het, al in 1500 BCE aangeteken (in die Ebers Papyrus, 'n Egiptiese mediese teks). 'Ou dokters het selfs behandelings aangeteken: chirurgie, versmoring, vas en 'n aantal plante, insluitend herfskrokus geweek in wyn, 'n plant met die naam spurge, wat verband hou met kasterboontjies en Ecballium elaterium, of komkommer spuit, ”sê Hunt en merk op dat ons nog steeds heelwat elemente uit die ou farmakopee in moderne chemoterapieë gebruik. "Om uit te vind dat kanker bestaan ​​en dat mense dit selfs probeer behandel het, het my geïnspireer om die siekte uit die paleo-onkologiese oogpunt te volg," sê sy. "As ons dit in antieke literatuur kan sien, behoort ons immers ook fisiese bewyse te kan vind."

Fisiese bewyse toon dat daar 7 000 jaar gelede, miskien selfs 9 000 jaar gelede, mense met kanker was.

Kyk net na die bene om bewyse van kanker in ou menslike oorskot te vind. Die primêre metodologie wat gebruik word om kanker in ou oorblyfsels te identifiseer, is visuele analise: op soek na afwykings in die skelet, sê Hunt. Dikwels word hierdie letsels in die been uitgebeeld, selfs al het die kanker in sagte weefsel begin. As longkanker byvoorbeeld metastaseer, lei dit tot kenmerkende letsels in die ribbes en die skapula, of die sleutelbeen, die gewrigte van die humerus en soms die skedel. 'Borskanker, testikulêre en eierstokkanker en selfs melanoom metastaseer ook baie vinnig in die been,' sê sy, 'terwyl beenkanker soos osteosarkoom en osteochondroma onbeheerde beengroei veroorsaak.' Sodra navorsers 'n afwyking opgemerk het, kan hulle 'n radiografiese of mikroskopiese analise doen [kyk na deursnee van die been onder 'n elektronmikroskoop en onderskeidelik CT of X-strale toe te pas] om meer te verstaan ​​oor wat gebeur rondom die kantlyn van die letsels. 'N Biomolekulêre metode vir die identifisering van mutasies in antieke DNA word ook ontwikkel. "Navorsers werk ook aan proteïenanalise om die proteïene wat verband hou met biomerkers van kanker te bepaal," sê Hunt. 'Dit kan ons help om 'n bietjie te verstaan ​​wat in die immuunstelsel van die persoon gebeur tydens die dood.

Paleo-onkologie as 'n veld is baie nuut-en vereis veelvuldige dissiplines. Hoe kan die studie van paleo-onkologie so nuut wees? Hunt sê dit was 'n sylyn vir bio-argeoloë, wat 'n paar gevallestudies en referate geskryf het, maar wie se fokus hoofsaaklik was op die meer algemene gesondheidsaanwysers soos aansteeklike siektes, geweld, trauma en stres. "Professor Eugen Strouhal, wat in Tsjeggië woon, het tyd bestudeer aan kanker in bio-argeologiese oorblyfsels, maar veral in Egipte, en sy werk was hoofsaaklik geïsoleerde skedels wat beskikbaar was om te bestudeer," sê Hunt. Tans is daar slegs 'n paar mense wat ten volle toegewy is aan paleo-onkologie. "Een van my kollegas, Jennifer Willoughby, van die Western University in Kanada, doen 'n radiografiese analise van mummies om diagnostiese kriteria vir kanker by mummies te verstaan," sê Hunt. In elk geval is paleo-onkologie 'n hoogs multidissiplinêre terrein wat evolusionêre bioloë, mediese historici, argeoloë, spesialiste in antieke tale, bioargeoloë, genetici, onkoloë en ander kankernavorsers insluit.

Hoe om kanker in duisende ou bene te diagnoseer. Gelukkig is daar baie antieke menslike monsters om te ondersoek. "Ons kan nie die voorkoms of frekwensie van kanker ken voordat ons 'n massiewe bevolking ontleed en bene identifiseer wat visuele bewyse van kanker toon nie," sê Hunt. 'Eerstens wil ek 'n soliede standaardmetodologie vir visuele analise bou. As ons seker is dat die standaard werk en mense weet hoe om dit te diagnoseer, kan ons na die volgende stap gaan. ” Om 'n stelsel aan die gang te kry, het Hunt saam met Willoughby en ander kollegas Casey Kirkpatrick en Roselyn Campbell-die Ancient Cancer Foundation (ACF) en sy navorsingsbeen, Paleo-oncology Research Organization (PRO), begin. Dit bring 'n netwerk van argeoloë, onkoloë en kankernavorsers byeen om wetenskaplike navorsingstandaarde en tegnieke te ontwikkel, opvoedkundige inligting te deel en toelaes te verleen. Die projek bevat 'n open-source databasis van argeologiese bewyse van kanker, wat baie tydperke en streke dek.

Paleo-onkologie daag die aanname uit dat kanker modern is. Dit is te vroeg om seker te sê, maar Hunt sê bewyse dui op die moontlikheid dat mense deur die geskiedenis van die mensdom aan kanker gely het. "Fisiese bewyse toon dat daar 7 000 jaar gelede, miskien selfs 9 000 jaar gelede, mense met kanker was," sê sy. 'Dit is ook nie verbasend nie. Mense word al baie lank daagliks blootgestel aan kankerverwekkende middels: UV -strale, rook van vure, verkoolde vleis, virusse. En grotte kan vol swaar metale wees wat redelik sterk, kankerverwekkende middels is. ” Dus, sê Hunt, die vraag is eintlik nie: het ons in die verlede kanker gehad nie? Dit is nou: “Hoe het kanker deur die geskiedenis verskyn? Watter omgewings-, kulturele en genetiese faktore — of 'n kombinasie van die faktore — het 'n impak gehad op hoe dit ontwikkel het?

Om te verstaan ​​hoe menslike biologie op die omgewing reageer, kan ook help om die manier waarop ons siektes hanteer, te verander, nie net kanker nie, maar ook ander siektes. Hunt verduidelik dat 'n groter begrip van epigenetika en die effek wat eksterne faktore op ons geenuitdrukking het, ons kan help om uit te vind hoe die omgewing ons DNA en die DNA van ons nageslag kan verander, wat ons min of meer vatbaar maak vir siektes soos kanker.

Kanker bestaan ​​al baie lank. Dit is nie noodwendig iemand se skuld nie.

Die belangrikste uitdagings wat paleo-onkoloë in die gesig staar. Argeoloë hou nie daarvan om vernietigende ontleding van menslike oorskot te doen nie, tensy dit absoluut noodsaaklik is. 'Ons wil so respekvol as moontlik wees,' sê Hunt. 'Ons grawe mense reeds uit hul rusplek, en terwyl ons terugkeer, wil ons beslis nie 'n gat in 'n individuele femur boor as dit nie absoluut nodig is nie. Daar moet 'n streng etiese kode wees om monsters te neem. ” Nog 'n uitdaging: geopolitiek. 'Elke land het sy eie wette. As u byvoorbeeld in Egipte werk, kan u nie monsters van menslike oorskot uit die land neem nie, terwyl hulpbronne vir iets soos biomolekulêre ontleding in die land baie beperk en baie polities is. Soortgelyke beperkings bestaan ​​in Israel en die VSA. ”

Dit gaan nie net daaroor om na die verlede te kyk nie, maar ook om kanker te behandel. Hunt en haar kollegas streef daarna om die perspektief van tradisionele kankernavorsing uit te brei deur seker te maak dat navorsing oor die geskiedenis van kanker op 'n gesamentlike, oop manier vergemaklik word. 'Samewerkende navorsing beteken dat spesialiste op verskillende terreine hul ervaring en verstand kan saamvoeg. Bio-argeoloë, evolusionêre bioloë en onkoloë beskik almal oor spesialiskennis. Dit is belangrik om saam te werk, en oop toegang tot hulpbronne is noodsaaklik sodat almal met 'n belangstelling in kanker, of dit nou in die verlede, hede of toekoms is, voordeel kan trek uit die kennis. sê Hunt.

As 'n kankeroorwinnaar self, verstaan ​​Hunt ook dat die hantering van kanker as 'n langdurige menslike lyding help om huidige lyding in 'n meer gebalanseerde perspektief te plaas. "Soos enige kankeroorlewende sal weet, vra jy jouself altyd af: 'Wat het ek gedoen om dit te veroorsaak?'" Sê Hunt. 'Hierdie gevoel dat u iets, alles wat u insluit, insluitend uself moet blameer, is nadelig vir die pasiënt, die gesin en die versorgers. En dit is nie hoe dit moet wees nie: kanker bestaan ​​al baie lank. Dit is nie noodwendig iemand se skuld nie. ”


Mees gelees

Ondanks die feit dat dit vandag een van die grootste oorsake van sterftes ter wêreld is, is kanker in argeologiese rekords feitlik afwesig in vergelyking met ander siektes - wat die idee laat ontstaan ​​het dat kanker hoofsaaklik aan die moderne leefstyl en mense wat langer leef, toegeskryf kan word.

Maar die bevinding, tesame met bewyse wat verlede jaar deur Britse navorsers gerapporteer is van metastatiese kanker in 'n 3 000 jaar oue skelet wat in 'n graf in die moderne Soedan gevind is, dui daarop dat kanker in die ou tyd in die Nylvallei voorkom.

Die antropologiese span van die Universiteit van Jaen het gesê die Egiptiese vrou is 'n aristokraat uit Elephantine, die suidelike stad van die land.

Haar oorskot is ontdek in die nekropolis van Qubbet el-Hawa, wes van die suidelike stad Aswan, het die ministerie gesê.

Volgens die Wêreldgesondheidsorganisasie se kankernavorsingsagentskap het nuwe kankergevalle in 2012 na raming 14 miljoen gestyg, wat binne 20 jaar tot 22 miljoen gestyg het.


Oorsprong van die woord kanker

Die oorsprong van die woord kanker word toegeskryf aan die Griekse geneesheer Hippokrates (460-370 vC), wat as die "Vader van Geneeskunde" beskou word. Hippokrates het die terme gebruik karkino's en karsinoom om nie-ulkusvormende en ulkusvormende gewasse te beskryf. In Grieks verwys hierdie woorde na 'n krap, wat waarskynlik op die siekte toegepas word omdat die vingeragtige uitsteeksels van 'n kanker die vorm van 'n krap in gedagte hou. Die Romeinse geneesheer, Celsus (28-50 vC), het later die Griekse term vertaal in Kanker, die Latynse woord vir krap. Galen (130-200 nC), 'n ander Griekse geneesheer, het die woord gebruik oncos (Grieks vir swelling) om gewasse te beskryf. Alhoewel die krap -analogie van Hippokrates en Celsus steeds gebruik word om kwaadaardige gewasse te beskryf, word Galen se term nou gebruik as 'n deel van die naam vir kankerspesialiste - onkoloë.


'N Bewegende teiken

Benewens die toon met die kwaadaardige groei, het die span 'n ander, selfs ouer fossiel met 'n gewas ontleed, hoewel 'n goedaardige een.

In 'n ander studie in dieselfde tydskrif beskryf die span 'n groei in 'n werwel van 'n 1,98 miljoen jaar oue jong skelet Australopithecus sediba, ontdek deur National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger op 'n plek genaamd Malapa, 'n paar kilometer van Swartkrans. Voor hierdie ontdekking was die oudste bekende goedaardige groei in die 120 000 jaar oue rib van 'n Neanderthaler, opgegrawe in Kroasië.

Die wetenskaplikes beskou die goedaardige gewas wat by Malapa gevind is as 'n verdere bewys van die bestaan ​​van kwaadaardige kanker in ons vroeë verhoudings.

"'N Gewas is 'n nuwe groei van been of weefsel, waar jy 'n glyskaal het van goedaardig tot kwaadaardig," sê die paleoantropoloog Patrick S. Randolph-Quinney, een van die ondersoekende wetenskaplikes.

'Aan die goedaardige kant is daar meganismes wat hierdie gewasse in toom hou, sodat hulle selfbeperkend is, of as hulle 'n sekere grootte bereik en hulle bly basies daar. Terwyl kanker die verlenging van die groeiproses is sonder die beheermeganismes. ”

Die span beskou hul bevindings ook as 'n belangrike herinnering dat kanker 'n bewegende teiken is. Ons ou geslag het ons gene gegee wat kankervermoë bevat, maar die siekte manifesteer op talle maniere wanneer ons blootgestel word aan veranderinge in ons omgewing.

Byvoorbeeld, maagkanker was meer algemeen tot in die laat 19de eeu, moontlik as gevolg van karsinogene wat in voedselbewaarmiddels was. Terselfdertyd neem kolonkanker toe, waarskynlik as gevolg van dieet met baie versadigde vette.

"Die moderne eksterne omgewing doen dinge aan ons historiese interne omgewing wat ons nog nooit in ons evolusionêre geskiedenis teëgekom het nie," sê Odes.


Neolitiese skelet onthul die vroeë geskiedenis van ragitis

Rickets is geïdentifiseer in 'n neolitiese skelet van die Skotse eiland Tiree, wat dit die vroegste geval van die siekte in die Verenigde Koninkryk is, volgens navorsing wat tydens die British Science Festival in Bradford aangekondig is.

Dit is veral verrassend, aangesien die siekte - wat veroorsaak word deur 'n tekort aan vitamien D wat verband hou met 'n gebrek aan sonlig - meer algemeen verband hou met die stedelike krotbuurte van Victoriaanse Brittanje as met landelike boerderygemeenskappe, soos dit in die Neolitiese Skotland bestaan ​​het. Die aard van die graf self - 'n eenvoudige begrafnis eerder as 'n kamergraf - het vrae laat ontstaan ​​oor hoe die vrou, fisies misvormd deur die siekte, deur haar gemeenskap behandel is.

Professor Ian Armit van die Universiteit van Bradford verduidelik: "Die vroegste geval van ragitis in Brittanje tot nou dateer uit die Romeinse tydperk, maar hierdie ontdekking neem dit meer as 3000 jaar terug. Daar was 'n paar moontlike gevalle in ander dele van die wêreld Dit is ongeveer dieselfde tyd, maar niemand is so duidelik soos hierdie nie. Alhoewel ons nie met sekerheid kan sê dat dit die vroegste geval ter wêreld is nie, is dit beslis baie ongewoon.

"Vitamien D -tekort behoort nie 'n probleem te wees vir almal wat blootgestel is aan 'n plattelandse leefstyl nie, so daar moes spesiale omstandighede gewees het wat die toegang van die vrou tot sonlig as kind beperk het. Dit is waarskynlik dat sy 'n kostuum gedra het wat haar liggaam bedek het. of voortdurend binne gebly het, maar of dit was omdat sy 'n godsdienstige rol vervul het, aan 'n siekte ly of 'n huishoudelike slaaf was, sal ons waarskynlik nooit weet nie. "

Die geraamte is saam met ten minste drie ander begrafnisse ontdek tydens 'n amateur -opgrawing in 1912. Slegs een van die geraamtes is van die eiland verwyder en is nou deel van die Hunterian -versameling aan die Universiteit van Glasgow, hoewel foto's van die ander oorbly. Daar word altyd aanvaar dat die skelet uit dieselfde tydperk as 'n nabygeleë nedersetting van die Ystertydperk dateer. Onlangse radiokoolstof -datering deur 'n span van die universiteite van Bradford en Durham het egter getoon dat die skelet eintlik baie vroeër was - tussen 3340 en 3090 vC - wat dit stewig in die Neolitiese tydperk geplaas het.

Die skelet is van 'n vrou tussen 25 en 30 jaar oud en meet tussen 145 en 150 cm lank, selfs volgens Neolitiese standaarde. Die bene toon 'n aantal misvormings wat veroorsaak word deur ragitis - veral in die borsbeen, ribbes en die arms en bene. Dit sou die vrou met 'n duifbors met misvormde ledemate gelaat het - alles kenmerkend van die siekte.

Die ontleding van die lae dentine wat tydens die kinderjare in die tande van die vrou neergelê is, het die span in staat gestel om besonderhede oor haar lewensgeskiedenis, veral haar dieet, tussen drie en veertien jaar oud te maak. Die veranderende vlakke van koolstof- en stikstof-isotope toon dat dit lyk asof sy tussen die ouderdomme van vier en 14 jaar aan fisiologiese spanning, moontlik ondervoeding of swak gesondheid, gely het.

Die isotopiese ontleding het ook getoon dat sy in die omgewing was - die strontiumvlakke was hoog, wat 'n belangrike kenmerk is van antieke gemeenskappe wat op eilande woon, soos die wind wat deur die Hebridese eilande gewaai word, waar gewasse bevrug is met seewier en onderhewig is aan sout see -spuit. Die ontleding het ook getoon dat sy nie seevis geëet het nie - iets wat die vitamien D in haar dieet sou verskaf om te voorkom dat sy ragitis opdoen. Vermy van voedsel uit die see was 'n algemene gebruik onder boerderygemeenskappe in die Neolitiese tydperk, selfs dié in kusgebiede waar vis en skulpvis volop sou wees.

Dr Janet Montgomery van die Universiteit van Durham sê: 'Ondervoeding of siekte as 'n kind, gebrek aan sonlig, misvorming en gestremdheid as 'n volwassene en uiteindelik 'n begrafnis sonder die gewone rituele gedurende die Neolitiese tye, blyk die hartseer lewensgeskiedenis hiervan te wees vrou, gebaseer op ons studie van oorspronklike dokumente uit die opgrawing en ontleding van die skelet self.

'Alhoewel daar baie vrae onbeantwoord is, veral omdat die ander geraamtes van die begraafplaas nie vir gedetailleerde ontleding beskikbaar is nie en neolitiese begrafnisse selde elders in die Hebrides opgegrawe word, kan ons net bespiegel waarom 'n siekte wat verband hou met stedelike ontbering het so vroeg in 'n boeregemeenskap ontstaan. Dit lyk veral treffend dat hierdie gemeenskappe 'n mate van kulturele afkeer gehad het om vis te eet, en tog het die eenvoudige toevoeging tot haar dieet moontlik die siekte voorkom. "

Die navorsing, gepubliseer in Verrigtinge van die Prehistoriese Genootskap, is gedeeltelik befonds deur Historic Scotland.


Die vroegste geval van kindermishandeling in die Egiptiese begraafplaas gevind

'N 2- tot 3-jarige kind van 'n begraafplaas uit die Romano-Christelike tydperk in Dakhleh Oasis, Egipte, toon bewyse van fisieke kindermishandeling, het argeoloë gevind. Die kind, wat ongeveer 2000 jaar gelede geleef het, verteenwoordig die vroegste gedokumenteerde geval van kindermishandeling in die argeologiese rekord, en die eerste geval wat ooit in Egipte gevind is, sê navorsers.

Die Dakhleh -oase is een van sewe oases in die Westerse woestyn van Egipte. Die webwerf het sedert die Neolitiese tyd deurlopend menslike besetting beleef, wat die fokus van verskeie argeologiese ondersoeke was, het hoofnavorser Sandra Wheeler, 'n bioargaeoloog aan die Universiteit van Sentraal -Florida, gesê. Boonop stel die begraafplase in die oase wetenskaplikes in staat om 'n unieke blik op die begin van die Christendom in Egipte te neem.

Die sogenaamde Kellis 2-begraafplaas, wat in die stad Kellis (Dakhleh Oasis) (suidwes van Kaïro) geleë is, weerspieël veral Christelike lykshuise. Byvoorbeeld, "in plaas daarvan om kinders op verskillende plekke te hê, word almal op een plek geplaas, wat in hierdie tyd 'n ongewone praktyk is", het Wheeler aan WordsSideKick.com gesê. Metingsmetodes wat radioaktiewe koolstof uit geraamtes gebruik, dui daarop dat die begraafplaas tussen 50 en 450 nC gebruik is.

Toe die navorsers op die mishandelde kleuter en mdash met die naam "Begrafnis 519" en mdash in Kellis 2 afkom, lyk niks aanvanklik buitengewoon nie. Maar toe Wheeler se kollega Tosha Dupras die sand wegvee, merk sy prominente breuke aan die kind se arms. [Sien foto's van Kellis 2 Cemetery & Skeleton]

'Sy het gedink:' Sjoe, dit was vreemd ', en toe vind sy 'n ander breuk op die sleutelbeen,' het Wheeler gesê. 'Ons het 'n paar ander kinders wat bewyse toon van geraamte -trauma, maar dit is die enigste een wat hierdie uiterste breukpatrone gehad het.

Tekens van mishandeling

Die navorsers het besluit om 'n reeks toetse op Burial 519 uit te voer, insluitend X-straalwerk, histologie (mikroskopiese weefselstudie) en isotopiese ontledings, wat metaboliese veranderinge identifiseer wat wys wanneer die liggaam probeer om homself te herstel. Hulle het 'n aantal beenbreuke in die liggaam gevind, op plekke soos die humerus (voorarm), ribbes, bekken en rug.

Terwyl geen spesifieke breuk die diagnose van kindermishandeling is nie, dui die patroon van trauma aan dat dit plaasgevind het. Die beserings was ook in verskillende stadiums van genesing, wat verder dui op herhaalde nie -toevallige trauma.

Een van die meer interessante breuke was op die boonste arms van die kind, op dieselfde plek op elke arm, het Wheeler gesê. Die frakture was voltooi, heeltemal deur die been gebreek, aangesien kinders meer buigsaam is as volwassenes, so 'n volledige onderbreking sou baie krag verg.

Nadat die besering met die kliniese literatuur vergelyk is, het die navorsers afgelei dat iemand die kind se arms gegryp het en dit as handvatsels gebruik het om die kind gewelddadig te skud. Ander breuke is waarskynlik ook veroorsaak deur skudding, maar sommige beserings, insluitend die op die ribbes en werwels, kom waarskynlik uit direkte houe.

Die argeoloë is nie seker wat uiteindelik die kleuter doodgemaak het nie. 'Dit kan die laaste fraktuur wees, wat die sleutelbeenfraktuur is,' het Wheeler gesê met verwysing na die sleutelbeen. "Miskien was dit nie 'n gebeurtenis wat oorleef kon word nie."

'N Unieke geval

Kindermishandeling in die argeologiese rekord is skaars. Een moontlike rede, het Wheeler gesê, is dat argeoloë tot ongeveer 20 jaar gelede nie regtig veel aandag aan kinderreste gegee het nie, omdat hulle geglo het dat kinders hulle nie veel van die verlede kon vertel nie.

'N Paar gevalle van moontlike kindermishandeling kom sedertdien uit Frankryk, Peru en die Verenigde Koninkryk, wat almal uit die Middeleeue of later dateer. 'Ons saak het beslis die beste konteks in terme van argeologie en skeletanalise,' het Wheeler gesê.

Van die 158 jeugdiges wat uit die Kellis 2 -begraafplaas opgegrawe is, is begrafnis 519 die enigste wat tekens van herhaalde nie -toevallige trauma toon, wat daarop dui dat kindermishandeling nie in die hele gemeenskap plaasgevind het nie. Die uniekheid van die saak ondersteun die algemene oortuiging dat kinders 'n gewaardeerde deel van die antieke Egiptiese samelewing was.

Alhoewel Romeine hulle kinders baie liefgehad het, het hulle geglo dat kinders sag en swak gebore word, so dit was die ouers se plig om hulle tot volwassenes te vorm. Hulle was dikwels besig met praktyke soos lyfstraf, om pasgebore babas op houtplanke te immobiliseer om behoorlike groei te verseker en die kleintjies gereeld in koue water te bad om dit nie sag te maak met die gevoel van warm water nie.

'Ons weet dat die ou Egiptenare kinders werklik vereer het,' het Wheeler gesê. 'Maar ons weet nie hoeveel Romeinse idees in die Egiptiese samelewing gefiltreer het nie,' het sy bygevoeg en gesuggereer dat die unieke geval van kindermishandeling moontlik die gevolg was van Romeinse invloed.

Die navorsing sal in die komende uitgawe van die International Journal of Paleopathology gepubliseer word.


Mammie het die oudste geval van prostaatkanker in die ou Egipte

Sowat 2250 jaar gelede in Egipte sukkel 'n man wat vandag nog net bekend was as M1 met 'n lang, pynlike, progressiewe siekte. 'N Dowwe pyn klop in sy onderrug en versprei dan na ander dele van sy liggaam, wat die meeste bewegings 'n ellende maak. Toe M1 uiteindelik onder die geheimsinnige siekte tussen die ouderdomme van 51 en 60 jaar beswyk, betaal sy gesin dat hy gemummifiseer moet word sodat hy wedergebore kan word en die plesier van die hiernamaals kan geniet.

Nou het 'n internasionale navorsingspan die M1 gediagnoseer: die oudste geval van prostaatkanker in antieke Egipte en die tweede oudste in die wêreld. (Die vroegste diagnose van prostaatkanker kom van die 2700-jarige skelet van 'n Skithiese koning in Rusland.) Boonop het die nuwe studie wat nou in die pers verskyn het, International Journal of Paleopathology, dui daarop dat vroeëre ondersoekers moontlik die voorkoms van kanker in antieke bevolkings onderskat het, omdat rekenaars tomografie (CT) -skandeerders met 'n hoë resolusie eers tumore van slegs 1 tot 2 millimeter in deursnee gevind het, eers in 2005 beskikbaar geword het. baie sonder hierdie tegnologie, ”sê spanleier Carlos Prates, 'n radioloog in privaat praktyk by Imagens Médicas Integradas in Lissabon.

Prostaatkanker begin in die okkerneutgrootte prostaatklier, 'n integrale deel van die manlike voortplantingstelsel. Die klier produseer 'n melkerige vloeistof wat deel uitmaak van semen en sit onder 'n man se blaas. In aggressiewe gevalle van die siekte kan prostaatkanker selle metastaseer of versprei, die bloedstroom binnedring en die bene binnedring. Nadat hy met hoë resolusie skanderings op drie Egiptiese mummies in die versameling van die National Archaeological Museum in Lissabon uitgevoer het, het Prates en kollegas baie klein, ronde, digte gewasse in M1 se bekken en lumbale ruggraat, sowel as in sy bo-arm en beenbene opgemerk. Dit is die gebiede wat die meeste geraak word deur metastatiese prostaatkanker. 'Ons kon geen bewyse vind om hierdie diagnose uit te daag nie,' sê Prates.

'Ek stem saam dat dit 'n geval is van metastatiese prostaatkanker,' sê Andreas Nerlich, 'n patoloog by die Akademiese Hospitaal München-Bogenhausen in Duitsland, wat nie by die navorsingsprojek betrokke was nie. "Dit is 'n baie goed uitgevoerde studie."

Navorsers sukkel al lank om bewyse van kanker in die geraamtes en gemummifiseerde vlees van die ou dooies op te spoor. Maar aangetekende gevalle van kanker in antieke bevolkings is skaars. Inderdaad, een studie wat in 1998 in die Tydskrif vir Paleopatologie bereken dat slegs 176 gevalle van skeletale kwaadaardighede aangemeld is by tienduisende ou mense wat ondersoek is. The low number of cases prompted a theory that cancer only began flourishing in the modern industrial age, when carcinogens became more widespread in food and in the environment and when people began living longer, giving tumors more time to grow and proliferate.

But ancient populations, says Albert Zink, a biological anthropologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy, were no strangers to carcinogens. Soot from wood-burning chimneys and fireplaces, for example, contains substances known to cause cancer in humans. And the bitumen that ancient boat builders heated to seal and waterproof ships has been linked to lung cancer as well as tumors in the respiratory and digestive tracts. "I think cancer was quite prevalent in the past," Zink says, "more prevalent than we have been able to see."

But that situation may be changing, Prates says, as physical anthropologists gain access to the new generation of high-resolution CT scanners. The equipment that Prates and his colleagues used to study M1, for example, has a pixel resolution of 0.33 millimeters, allowing radiologists to visualize even fleck-sized lesions.

For scientists studying the origins of cancer and the complex interplay of environment, diet, and genes on the prevalence of the disease, such improved detection could shed new light on a disease that has plagued humanity for many thousands of years, if not longer. "And for sure there's always the hope that reaching a better understanding of the roots of cancer will help contribute in some way to a cure," Zink concludes.


Comparative pathology of cancer

No clear evidence of cancer has been demonstrated on living plants, and cancer seems to be absent in modern invertebrates, excluding some experimental conditions (i.e., tumour-like conditions induced in Drosophyla sp.). Even though Harshberger 2 has suggested the possibility of neoplasms in invertebrate animals, and Kaiser 3 has demonstrated some sorts of “growths” in plants and inferior animals, we have no clear evidence of true neoplastic diseases other than in the vertebrate animals.

At present true neoplastic diseases, including cancer, seem to be restricted to vertebrate animals, and only one observation of a true cancer has been described in one of the more simple living vertebrates, specifically hepatomas in a jawless hagfish. 2 This is a very important case for the comparative pathology of cancer, because lampreys are among the simplest living vertebrates. The presence of neoplastic diseases beginning with the lesser vertebrates seems to be consistent with the hypothesis that cancer is a pathology characteristic of vertebrate animals.

Cancer has been reported throughout the entire spectrum of vertebrates. In the elasmobranch fish a case of chondroma in a lumbar vertebra has been described in the species Squalus mitsukurii (dogfish), 4 and a case of fibrosarcoma has been described in Raja macrorhyncha (skate). 4

Rising along the biological scale, in the bony fish (osteichthyians) neoplasms seem to be more frequent, and we have some descriptions of both benign tumours (i.e., osteoma, chondroma, osteocondroma) and malignancies (i.e., fibrosarcoma in a dorsal fin of a carp, the fin of a skate ray and in the mandible of a codfish). 4 In addition, osteosarcoma has been clearly identified in a bone of the anal fin of Esox lucius (a pike) and in the pectoral fins and opercular bones of some codfish. 4 Carcinoma without skeletal involvement has been reported in trout, 5 climbing perch 6 and perch. 5 , 6 Lymphoma 2 and lymphosarcoma have also been observed in a northern pike. 2 Hyperostosis is relatively frequent in many living species of bony fish and seems to be a form of so-called osteomata. 7 The focal neoformation of compact bone is one of the more frequent benign neoplasms in all living fish, and researchers invariably discuss the nomenclature linked to these forms. We prefer to follow the older nomenclature (i.e., focal hyperostosis, osteoma, ivory osteoma) that were introduced in comparative pathology by Gervais 8 at the end of the 19th Century. I have demonstrated the phylogenetic relationship between focal hyperostosis in living fish and the osteoma in modern humans. 7 Osteoma is one of the more common neoplasms. We have been aware of its presence and its high prevalence in fish 2 centuries. 8 Osteoma has been documented in butterfly fish, file fish, red tai, angelfish, codfish, pike, flounder, croaker, flatfishes, scabbard fish, coal fish, rock fish, speckled trout, carp. 4

No cases of neoplasms have been found among the amphibians. The only case 4 reported in literature may simply be a callus subsequent to a fracture. 9

In modern reptiles there have been occasional cases of parathyroid adenoma in turtles. 10 Researchers have also observed chondroma 4 and osteochondroma 11 , 12 in the representatives of the genus Varanus. A clear case of osteosarcoma has been observed in the spine of a rufous-beaked snake. 13 In addition, chondrosarcoma has been reported in corn snakes 2 , 14 and osteochondrosarcoma has been described in the vertebral column of an individual attributable to Natrix melanoleuca. 15 Neurofibrosarcoma has been reported in a Korean viper, 16 and presumed melanoma has been observed in a snake from the Everglades. 15 Lymphatic tumours seem to be relatively frequent in modern wild reptiles. Lymphatic leukemia has been described in boa constrictors 17 and in Python. 18 Lymphoma has been reported in rhinoceros vipers, death adders, Indian rock pythons, and hog nose snakes. 16 In addition, lymphosarcoma has been reported in rhinoceros vipers and spitting cobras. 16 Leukaemia has been observed in Acanthophis antarctica, Bitis arietans en Bitis nasicornis. 16

Neoplasms in birds are relatively common but are strictly limited to captive animals. In wild bird populations neoplasms seem to be extremely rare if present. No cases of neoplasms have been described in wild birds. In 25–33% of captive budgerigars tumours are the cause of death and in psittaci formes at least 3.5% of deaths are caused by malignancies. 19 Pituitary tumours are particularly common although osteosarcoma has also been reported with particular frequency in domestic budgerigars and canaries. 19

According to Jubb and Kennedy, 20 wild living mammals neoplasms are rare. In domestic dogs there is a greater prevalence of neoplasms, which is concentrated in the 6–8-year age span, a fact that is of particular interest considering that these animals have a life expectancy of 10–14 years. 20

In wild mammal populations neoplasms are surely more rare. Epidemiological data exists only for chimpanzees and we know that 1.8% of the deaths in chimpanzee communities are due to cancer. Single observations of chondrosarcoma have been reported in the femur of a kangaroo, 18 , 21 and in the caudal vertebra of a ferret. 22 A single case of fibrosarcoma was observed in a Northern fur seal. 23 Neoplasms of the lymphatic cells seem to be slightly more common in many mammals. A case of possible myeloma of the lumbar vertebra associated with plasma cells dyscrasia has been reported in a ferret. 22 Hodgkin's lymphoma, without skeletal involvement, has been reported in Orcinus orca. 24 Lymphosarcoma has been noted in many marine and terrestrial mammals including harbor seals, sea lions, Northern fur seals, harp seals 23 and deer. 18 Leukaemia has been documented in pacaranas 18 and in gibbons. 25

The focal hyperostosis known as osteoma, which produces compact bone buttons on the cranial vault and more subordinate buttons on the surfaces of the long bones (commonly called ivory osteoma), 7 merit special consideration. This type of benign bone neoplasm has been induced in mice by the RFB osteoma virus. 26 Osteoma is frequent particularly in many mammals, as well as in bony fish, 7 and has been documented in wild species (i.e., ferrets and Platecarpus). 9 , 27 Diffuse hyperostosis is also relatively frequent in bony fish and mammals. It is characteristic of 3 orders of mammals and present in all subjects: Proboscidea (i.e., sirenia), Hyracoidea (i.e., trichecus) and Tubulidentata (i.e., dugongo). In all these animals, the axial skeleton is replaced completely by medullary bones, 28 a congenital condition called pachyostosis. Focal hyperostosis in the form of mandibular swelling, however, has also been documented in dogs. 29

Multiple hereditary osteochondromata is relatively common in some other modern mammals: domestic horses, cats and dogs. 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 In the family Canidae only domestic dogs are affected. 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 Malignant degeneration into osteosarcoma or chondrosarcoma has been demonstrated in about 18% of the cases. 32 Multiple hereditary osteochondromata have also been observed in Nothocyon, Tomarctus, Daphoenus en Cynodictis. 39 , 40

The prevalence of neoplasms in the modern human population as cause of death is particularly high. This datum is an exception within the general framework of the comparative pathology of neoplasms. The very high prevalence of neoplasms in modern humans seems similar to the high prevalence of neoplasms in the population of domestic dogs or in populations of captive birds.

In conclusion, the comparative pathology of extant neoplasms shows the following remarkable points: (ek) neoplasms are a pathology typical of all the extant vertebrates, starting from jawless fish (ii) neoplasms in extant wild vertebrate populations seem to be extremely rare in amphibians and birds, and slightly more frequent in fish, reptiles and mammals (iii) one of the more frequent forms of extant neoplasm in both bony fish and mammals seems to be the focal (osteoma) and the regional (pachyostosis) benign bone tumour and (iv) in captivity the prevalence of neoplasms, including cancer, seem to be considerably higher, perhaps independently from the systematic position of involved populations (i.e., both in birds and in mammals).


Cancer Has Afflicted People Since Prehistoric Times

When Louis Leakey sat down to recount the discovery of what may be the earliest sign of cancer in the genus Homo , the first thing he remembered was the mud. It was March 29, 1932, midway through the Third East African Archaeological Expedition, and it had rained so long and so hard that it took an hour to drive the four miles from the campsite in Kanjera, near the shore of Lake Victoria, to the Kanam West fossil beds. By the time he and his crew had slogged their way through, they were covered with mud, and before long, Leakey, who was just beginning an illustrious career as an anthropologist, was on hands and knees scouring the ground for newly exposed bones.

He was coaxing the remains of an extinct pig from the muck when one of his Kenyan workers, Juma Gitau, walked over with a broken tooth he had just extracted from a cliff side. Deinotherium , Leakey noted, a prehistoric elephantlike creature that roamed Africa long ago.

Gitau went back to look for more, and as he was scratching away at the cliff face, a heavy mass of calcified clay broke loose. He chopped it with his pick to see what was inside: more teeth, but not Deinotherium . These looked like what a dentist might recognize as human premolars, still set in bone, yet they came from a layer of sediment deposited, Leakey believed, in early Pleistocene time, about a million years ago.

The Kanam mandible quickly became a sensation. “Not only the oldest known human fragment from Africa,” Leakey proclaimed, “but the most ancient fragment of true Homo yet discovered anywhere in the world.” It was, he insisted, a direct precursor of us all.

Like many of Leakey’s enthusiasms, this one proved controversial. Anthropologists remain divided over whether Homo kanamensis , as Leakey called it, was as old as he believed. Some of them have come to consider the specimen a more recent jawbone — mid- to late Pleistocene — that had washed into much older surroundings. Whatever its pedigree or precise age, Kanam Man is no longer considered remarkable for its antiquity but for an abnormal growth on the left side of the jaw.

At the time of the discovery, it had seemed like a bother, detracting from Leakey’s find. He was working in his rooms at St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge, carefully cleaning the specimen, when he felt a lump. He thought it was a rock. But as he kept picking, he could see that the lump was part of the fossilized jaw. He sent it to a specialist on mandibular abnormalities at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, who diagnosed it as osteosarcoma — a cancer of the bone.

Others have not been as certain. As recently as 2007, scientists scanning the mandible with an electron microscope concluded that this was indeed a case of “bone run amok” while remaining neutral on the nature of the pathology.

I first came across a mention of the Kanam jaw in a history-of-cancer timeline somewhere on the web. That sent me digging into Leakey’s old books and papers, and after several email exchanges, I tracked down the fossil at the Natural History Museum in London, where it had been in storage for decades. As far as I could tell, it had never been on display.

On a spring day I arrived, as previously arranged, at the museum’s staff and researcher entrance on Exhibition Road. The man at the guard desk called ahead to Robert Kruszynski, curator of vertebrate paleontology. He came out to greet me and then led me into the museum’s inner sanctum. Waiting for me on a table by a window was a brown cardboard box he had retrieved from museum storage. The handwritten label identified the contents: M 16509, KANAM MANDIBLE.

M stood for mammal. In the upper right-hand corner of the label were two colored stickers — a red sunlike symbol and below that a blue star — indicating that the specimen in the box had been analyzed at various times by radioassay and X-rays. Mr. Kruszynski carefully removed the lid. Inside was a smaller box, fashioned from balsa wood and cardboard and covered with a glass lid, and inside that was the Kanam jaw.

He placed it on a padded mat, to cushion it from the hard surface of the table. “All yours to look at,” he said, and he went off to search for another fossil I hoped to see: a femur retrieved from an early medieval Saxon grave in Standlake, England, with an enormous growth that had also been diagnosed as a cancerous bone tumor.

I had thought I would be content just glimpsing the Kanam jaw. I never expected to be left alone with it and to be able to hold it in my hand. It was dark brown and unexpectedly heavy and dense. That shouldn’t have been surprising. It was a rock really, petrified bone. Once it had been part of a prehistoric man, or a proto-man. Two yellowed teeth were still in place, and there was a deep hole where the root of another tooth had been.

Just below that, on the left inside curve of the jaw, was the tumor. It was bigger than I had expected, reminding me perversely of a type of candy from my childhood called a jawbreaker.

There was also a slight swelling on the outside of the jaw, and I could understand how people might argue endlessly over whether it was the remnant of a modern chin, as Leakey himself believed, or just part of the tumor. I could see where Leakey had sliced through the mass (some of his colleagues considered this sacrilege) to remove a section for further analysis. I could almost picture the rest of the head, its vacant eyes pleading for relief from inexplicable pain.

Mr. Kruszynski returned half an hour later to see how I was doing with the fossil. “Don’t bring it too close to the edge,” he warned. I suddenly realized that the protective pad on the table was sloping toward my lap and how easily a sudden movement might have sent the Kanam mandible dropping onto the linoleum floor.

In the end, he was unable to find the cancerous femur I’d inquired about. “For another time,” he said. He escorted me back across the barrier to the public portion of the museum. Hundreds of visitors of all ages coursed through the hallways. Some of them inevitably would get cancer, or they would love somebody who did. I wondered if anyone had been there for Kanam Man.

Not much has been written about the obscure discipline of paleo-oncology. Although research had gone on sporadically for decades, the word was introduced only in 1983 when a small group of Greek and Egyptian oncologists (from the Greek onkos meaning “mass” or “burden”) began planning a symposium on human cancer in earlier times. The gathering took place the following year on a voyage to the island of Kos, where Hippocrates was born. What emerged was an elegantly published, sparsely printed little book, Palaeo-Oncology . I felt lucky to find a copy on the Internet for $100. Its 58 pages are bound in a blue cover with gilded print, and below the title is a drawing of a crab. Crab in Greek is karkinos , and Hippocrates, in the fifth century B.C., used the word for the affliction whose Latin name is cancer . It became the root of carcinogen and carcinoma .

Some 600 years later, the ancient physician Galen speculated on the etymology in an old text: “As a crab is furnished with claws on both sides of its body, so, in this disease, the veins which extend from the tumour represent with it a figure much like that of a crab.” The story is repeated in almost every history of cancer.

Very few tumors, however, look like crabs. Paul of Aegina, a seventh-century Byzantine Greek, suggested that the metaphor was meant to be taken more abstractly: “Some say that [cancer] is so called because it adheres with such obstinacy to the part it seizes that, like the crab, it cannot be separated from it without great difficulty.” The word karkinoi was also applied to grasping tools, like calipers.

All but forgotten is a very different derivation from Louis Westenra Sambon, a British expert on parasitology who, before his death in 1931, turned his attention to the study of cancer. There is a parasite, Sacculina carcini , that feasts on crabs in a manner eerily similar to the feasting of a cancerous tumor. The process was described in a 1936 report by pathologist Sir Alexander Haddow to the Royal Society of Medicine:

[I]t attaches itself to the body of a young crab, and casts off every part of its economy save a small bundle of all-important cells. These penetrate the body of the host and come to rest on the underside of the latter’s intestine, just beneath the stomach. Here, surrounded by a new cuticle, they shape themselves into the “sacculina interna,” and like a germinating bean-seedling, proceed to throw out delicately branching suckers which, root-like, extend through every portion of the crab’s anatomy to absorb nourishment. Growing in size, the parasite presses upon the underlying walls of the host’s abdomen, causing them to atrophy, so that when the crab moults, a hole is left in this region corresponding in size to the body of the parasite. Through this opening the tumour-like body finally protrudes and becomes the mature “sacculina externa.”

Long before Galen, disciples of Hippocrates, dining on crabs, may have noticed the similarities between the ways the parasite overtakes its host and the invasion of a cancer.

Whatever the reason for the name, ancient Greek texts describe what sound like cancer of the uterus and the breast. Driven by a belief in sympathetic magic, some physicians would treat a tumor by placing a live crab on top of it. They also recommended powders and ointments (sometimes made from pulverized crabs) or cauterization (burning closed the ulceration). As for patients with internal tumors, Hippocrates warned that they might best be left alone: “With treatment they soon die, whereas without treatment they survive for a long time.” The principle is part of the Hippocratic oath: First do no harm.

There is something comforting about knowing that cancer has always been with us, that it is not all our fault, that you can take every precaution and still something in the genetic coils can become unsprung. Usually it takes decades for the microdamage to accumulate — 77 percent of cancer is diagnosed in people 55 or older. With life spans in past centuries hovering around 30 or 40 years, finding cancer in the fossil record is like sighting a rare bird. People would have died first of something else. Yet in spite of the odds, cases continue to be discovered, some documented so vividly that you can almost imagine the ruined lives.

After my visit to London, I received from the Natural History Museum photographs of the Saxon skeleton whose tumorous femur I had hoped to examine. I had read that the growth was large — 10 inches by 11 inches — but I was astonished to see what looked like a basketball grafted onto the young man’s leg. The tumor shows a sunburst pattern that pathologists recognize as a sign of osteosarcoma, a cancer so rare that one would have to comb through the bones of tens of thousands of people to find a single example.

Yet ancient cases continue to turn up. There were signs of the cancer in an Iron Age man in Switzerland and a fifth-century Visigoth from Spain. An osteosarcoma from a medieval cemetery in the Black Forest mountains of southern Germany destroyed the top of a young child’s leg and ate into the hip joint. Bony growths inside the roof of the eye sockets indicated anemia, which may have been an effect of the cancer. The authors of the report speculated on the cause: contamination from a nearby lead and silver mine.

Maybe it helped to believe there was a reason. But no one knows what causes osteosarcoma. Then, as now, a few cases probably were hereditary, traced to chromosomal abnormalities. In modern times, speculation turned for a while to fluoride-treated water and, more plausibly, radiation — therapeutic treatments for other diseases or exposure to radioactive isotopes like strontium-90, which is spread by nuclear fallout. Strontium sits just below calcium in the periodic table of the elements and imitates its behavior, incorporating itself tightly into bone. But most often, osteosarcoma strikes for no apparent reason, leaving parents grasping to understand what remains as inexplicable as a meteor strike.

Another malignancy, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, which affects the mucous membrane in the nose, can scar adjacent bone. Signs of it have been found in skeletons from ancient Egypt. One woman’s face had been all but obliterated, and I tried to imagine her stumbling through life. “The large size of the tumor, which caused such extensive destruction, suggests a relatively long-lasting process,” observed Eugen Strouhal, the Czech anthropologist who documented the case. “Survival would be impossible without the help and care of the patient’s fellow-men.” Here was another case where the horrors of cancer punched through the flat veneer of scientific prose.

Osteosarcoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma — these are primary cancers, those found at the site of origin. They are debilitating enough. Most skeletal cancers by far come from metastases, tumors that migrate from elsewhere. They also show up with greater frequency in the fossil record, leaving a distinctive signature. Metastatic bone cancer has been discovered in Egyptian tombs, in a Portuguese necropolis, in a prehistoric grave in the Tennessee River Valley and in a leper skeleton from a medieval cemetery in England. Buried near the Tower of London, the skeleton of a 31-year-old woman was marked with metastatic lesions. We even know her name from a lead coffin plate: Ann Sumpter. She died May 25, 1794.

In 2001, archaeologists excavated a 2,700-year-old burial mound in the Russian Republic of Tuva, where nomadic horsemen called the Scythians once thundered across the Eurasian steppes, their leaders exquisitely dressed in gold. Digging down through two wooden ceilings, the scientists came upon a subterranean chamber. Its floor, covered with a black felt blanket, cushioned two skeletons. Crouched together like lovers, both man and woman wore what remained of their royal vestments. Around the man’s neck was a heavy band of twisted gold decorated with a frieze of panthers, ibex, camels and other beasts. Near his head lay pieces of a headdress: four gold horses and a deer. Golden panthers, more than 2,500 of them, bedecked his cape.

His riches couldn’t save him. When he died — he appeared to have been in his 40s — his skeleton was infested with tumors. A pathological analysis, including a close look with a scanning electron microscope, concluded that the nature of the lesions and the pattern of their spread were characteristic of metastatic prostate cancer. Biochemical tests revealed high levels of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA. For all the false positives these tests can produce, this one was apparently genuine.

While prostate cancer tends to be osteoblastic, adding unwanted mass to the skeleton, breast cancer is osteolytic, gnawing mothlike at the bone. A middle-aged woman with osteolytic lesions was excavated from the northern Chilean Andes where she died around A.D. 750. Her body was buried in a mummy pack along with her possessions: three woolen shirts, some feathers, corncobs, a wooden spoon, a gourd container and a metal crucible. She was no Scythian queen. Her hair reached down her back in a long braid tied with a green cord. There were lesions in her spine, sternum and pelvis. On top of her skull, cancer had chomped a ragged hole 35 millimeters across. Cancer had feasted on her right femur, shortening her leg.

Altogether I counted about 200 suspected cancer sightings in the archaeological record. I was left to wonder how big an iceberg lay floating beneath the tip.

Ninety percent of human cancers are carcinomas, which arise in the epithelial tissues that line the organs and cavities of the body and envelop us with skin. As the layers are worn by the passage of food and waste or exposure to the elements, the outer cells are constantly dying. The cells beneath must divide to form replacements. And with every division there will be mistakes in the copying of genes — spontaneous mutations, or ones caused by carcinogens in food, water and air. For children, who are just beginning to withstand life’s wear and tear, only a fraction of cancers are carcinomas.

When it comes to hunting ancient cancer, primary carcinomas would almost always be lost with the decomposing tissues. And those that had metastasized would have often spread first to the lung or liver, killing the victim before a record was left in bone. Egyptian medical papyruses make ambiguous references to “swellings” and “eatings,” and some evidence has survived in mummies. A rectal carcinoma in a 1,600-year-old mummy was confirmed with a cellular analysis of the tissue. Another mummy was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Other evidence of ancient cancer may have been destroyed by the invasive nature of Egyptian embalming rituals. To prepare a pharaoh for passage to the afterlife, the first step was removing most of his organs. The brain was pulled out though the nostrils. The torso was sliced open to take out the abdominal and chest organs (except for the heart, which was believed necessary for the ethereal voyage). To slow the process of decay, a turpentine-like solution was sometimes injected as an enema to dissolve the digestive tract.

Mummies are a curiosity, and most skeletal evidence is stumbled on by chance. Only recently have anthropologists really begun looking for cancer — with CT scans, X-rays, biochemical assays and their own eyes. What they will never see, even in bone, are clues lost through what anthropologists call taphonomic changes.

In digging and transporting skeletal remains, markings can inadvertently be erased. Bone-eating osteolytic lesions can cause a specimen to crumble and disappear. Through erosion, decomposition and the gnawing of rodents, taphonomic changes might also create the illusion of metastasis — pseudopathology — a possibility that must be taken into account along with alternative diagnoses like osteoporosis and infectious disease.

But on balance, it seems likely that the evidence of ancient cancer is significantly underreported. Most skeletons, after all, are incomplete. Metastases are more likely to appear in certain bones like the vertebrae, pelvis, femur and skull. Others rarely are affected. No one can know if a missing bone happened to be the one that was cancerous.

Hoping to cut through the uncertainty, Tony Waldron, a paleopathologist at University College London, tried to get a feel for how much cancer archaeologists should expect to find. First he had to come up with an estimate, no matter how imperfect, of the frequency with which primary tumors might have occurred in earlier times. There wasn’t much to go on. The oldest records that seemed at all reliable came from the Registrar General of Britain for causes of death between the years 1901 and 1905.

Using that as his baseline, he took into account the likelihood that various cancers would come to roost in the skeleton where they might be identified. The numbers, a range of approximations, came from modern autopsy reports. For colorectal cancer, the odds were very low, 6 to 11 percent, as they were for stomach cancer, 2 to 18 percent. On the high side were cancer of the breast (57 to 73 percent) and prostate (57 to 84 percent).

From these and other considerations, Waldron calculated that (depending on age at death) the proportion of cancers in a collection of old bones would be between zero and 2 percent for males and 4 and 7 percent for females. (The numbers were higher for women because of gynecological cancer. In the next century, cancer in men would come to dominate because of smoking.)

No matter how hard you looked, cases of ancient cancer would be sparse — even if the rate had been as high as that of industrial Britain. To test if his numbers were plausible, he tried them out on the remains of 623 people from a crypt at Christ Church, Spitalfields in the East End of London between 1729 and 1857. Relying solely on visual inspection, Waldron found one case of carcinoma among the women and none among the men.

That was within the range of his formula, encouragement that it was not wildly wrong. The next step was to try the predictions on much older and larger populations: 905 well-preserved skeletons buried at two sites in Egypt between 3200 and 500 B.C., and 2,547 skeletons placed in a southern German ossuary between A.D. 1400 and 1800. (The church cemetery was so small and crowded that remains, once they had decomposed, were periodically removed and put into storage.)

Using X-rays and CT scans to confirm the diagnoses, pathologists in Munich found five cancers in the Egyptian skeletons and 13 in the German ones — about what Waldron’s formula predicted. For all the differences between life in ancient Egypt, Reformation Germany and early 20th century Britain, the frequency of cancer appeared to be about the same.

Since then, the world has grown more complex. Longevity has soared along with the manufacture of cigarettes. Diets have changed drastically, and the world is awash with synthetic substances. The medical system has gotten better at detecting cancer. Epidemiologists are still trying to untangle all the threads.

Yet running beneath the surface there has been a core rate of cancer, the legacy of being multicellular creatures in an imperfect world. There is no compelling evidence that this baseline is much different now than it was in ancient times.

[This article originally appeared in print as "Cancer: The Long Shadow."]


Teenage girl’s skeleton discovered in mysterious grave near Egyptian pyramid

The skeleton of a 13-year-old girl has been discovered in a mysterious grave near an ancient Egyptian pyramid.

The skeleton of a 13-year-old girl has been discovered in a mysterious grave near an ancient Egyptian pyramid.

The burial was found during the excavation of next to the Meidum pyramid south of Cairo, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. The teen’s remains were found in a squatting position, the Ministry explained, in a statement.

Archaeologists were able to work out the teen’s age at death by studying her bones, according to LiveScience, although it is not known when her remains were buried. LiveScience notes that the adjacent Meidum pyramid is 4,600 years old.

While no other human remains or artifacts were reportedly found in the girl’s grave, items have been unearthed elsewhere at the site, which contains an ancient cemetery. Archaeologists have uncovered two animal heads, which are likely to be bulls and three symbolic pottery pots, officials said.

Archaeologists have been excavating near the Meidum Pyramid south of Cairo. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

Egypt continues to reveal fresh details of its rich history. Archaeologists, for example, recently discovered dozens of mummies in ancient desert burial chambers.

In a separate project, experts recently explained the strange brown spots on some of the paintings in King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Last month, archaeologists also announced the discovery of ancient tombs in the Nile Delta north of Cairo. In a separate project, two ancient tombs dating back to the Roman period were uncovered in Egypt’s Western Desert.

Archaeologists have uncovered two animal heads, which are likely to be bulls, from the site. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

In November, archaeologists confirmed the discovery of eight limestone sarcophagi containing mummies at a site 25 miles south of Cairo. Last year, researchers also uncovered a "massive" building that was once part of Egypt’s ancient capital city.

In another project, archaeologists discovered a stunning sphinx statue at an ancient temple in southern Egypt.

Last summer, experts unlocked the secrets of a mysterious ancient ‘cursed’ black granite sarcophagus. The massive coffin, which was excavated in the city of Alexandria, was found to contain three skeletons and gold sheets with the remains.

The discovery is the latest fascinating archaeological find in Egypt. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

Archaeologists also found the oldest solid cheese in the tomb of Ptahmes, mayor of the ancient city of Memphis.

The pots discovered during the excavation. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

A mummy buried in southern Egypt more than 5,000 years ago has also revealed its grisly secrets, shedding new light on prehistoric embalming practices.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers


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