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Skeleton of cancer man pre-dates Christianity

Archaeologists have found a complete 3,200-year-old skeleton with cancer and say the discovery could help show how the disease has evolved.

The remains of the wealthy man aged between 25 and 35 were found in a tomb close to the River Nile in Sudan by Durham University student Michaela Binder last year.

The bones showed evidence of metastatic carcinoma – cancer which has spread from where it started.

Analysis proved it came from a malignant soft-tissue tumour and spread across large parts of the body, making it the oldest "convincing" example of metastatic cancer ever found, the authors of the study, which is published in the academic journal PLOS One, said.


Researchers from Durham University and the British Museum said the discovery will help to explore underlying causes of cancer in ancient times and provide insights into the evolution of cancer in the past.

Although it is one of the leading causes of death today, it is extremely rare in archaeological finds compared to other detectable killers. This has led scientists to conclude cancer is a product of modern lifestyles and increased longevity, but the discovery shows cancer existed in the Nile Valley in 1200BC.

Ms Binder, the lead author from Durham University's Archaeology Department, said: "This may help us to understand the almost unknown history of the disease.

"We need to understand the history of the disease to better understand how it evolved and for that it is important to find more examples."