Researchers have discovered prostate cancer in 2,200-year-old ancient mummy. The discovery marks the second oldest detection of prostate cancer ever and points researchers closer to discovering what triggers the deadly disease.
The discovery of prostate cancer in the ancient Egyptian mummy signals a significant breakthrough that points to the disease being linked to genetics, and not the environment.
"We are starting to see that the causes of cancer seem to be less environmental, more genetic," American University in Cairo professor Salima Ikram said in a statement.
"Living conditions in ancient times were very different; there were no pollutants or modified foods, which leads us to believe that the disease is not necessarily only linked to industrial factors," Ikram added.
For scientists, the discovery is substantial as determining whether genetics or the environment triggers cancer is pivotal to both understanding and responding to the disease.
"Findings such as these bring us one step closer to finding the cause of cancer, and ultimately, the cure to a disease that has besieged mankind for so long," Ikram said.
The mummy, which is kept at the National Archaeology Museum of Lisbon, died in his forties. In his death, he was discovered adorned with a painted shroud and mask.
The oldest known case of the cancer dates back 2,700 years. Despite the scarcity of reported cases of cancer in antiquity, researchers believe that the disease was quite common but went undiscovered as lifespans were shorter and people often died from other reasons than the full-fledged progression of caner.
"This study shows that caner did exist in antiquity, for sure in ancient Egypt. The main reason for the scarcity of examples found today might be the lower prevalence of carcinogens and the shorter life expectancy," Paula Viega, a researcher in Egyptology told Discovery News.