How Old is Cancer?

You're not going to believe it but it's been around for 120,000 years.  A story today in The New York Times' Science Times reports that it's been found in a Neanderthal man, who was unlucky enough to have cancer of the bones.

Before this,the earliest bone cancer was found in specimens 1,000 to 4,000 years old.

"Normally ribs are full of spongy bone, but this rib has a big cavity,” said David W. Frayer, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas and one of the researchers involved in the study, told Sindyan N. Bihanoo. The cavity probably came from where cancer ate away the bones.

The specimen was found between 1895 and 1905 in what is today Croatia, according to Bihanoo. CT scans and X-rays were used to study the fossil more closely to determine the cause of the gaping hole.

Dr. Frayer told Bihanoo that this was an extremely rare find because people didn't live as long as they do today, when the risk of cancer increases as you age, and even more unusual, people were not exposed to the carcinogens we are today.

“This shows that they were susceptible to some of the same cancers we are today, even in a non-polluted environment,” Bihanoo quotes him.


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