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Palaeontology

Cancer evidence dates back 1.7 million years

By T.K. Randall
September 19, 2016 · Comment icon 6 comments



Our prehistoric ancestors were not immune to the disease. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Lillyundfreya
Scientists have found signs of bone cancer in the fossil remains of an early South African hominin.
It is a common misconception that cancer is exclusively a disease of the modern world - a malady brought about only through exposure to toxins, poor eating habits and other contemporary factors.

Historical evidence, including signs of malignant tumors within a 120,000-year-old Neanderthal fossil, has shown us that cancer is actually a disease that can be traced far back in to prehistory.
Now scientists believe that they have managed to push the origins of the disease back even further thanks to the discovery of what is thought to be evidence of bone cancer in an early human ancestor that lived in South Africa over 1.7 million years ago.

Discovered within the Swartkrans Cave site, this prehistoric fossil foot exhibits clear indications of a malignant tumor that had originated from within the bone and would have most likely proved fatal.

By analyzing these early cases, which occurred at a time long before the existence of the toxins and modern lifestyle factors we typically associate with the disease, scientists hope to be able to learn more about how cancer arises as well as when and where it ultimately originated.



Source: Heritage Daily | Comments (6)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Gecks 7 years ago
The thing I wonder is, is cancer more common nowadays or are we just more aware to what it is?
Comment icon #2 Posted by coolguy 7 years ago
Interesting,cancer has been around since the dawn of man
Comment icon #3 Posted by Lucas Cooper Merrin 7 years ago
One of natures methods of trying to keep the population in check
Comment icon #4 Posted by psyche101 7 years ago
Animals get cancer, why would this be special? I figured we just always had it to be honest.†
Comment icon #5 Posted by oldrover 7 years ago
We're going to see more of it these days, because we have an increasingly elderly population in the West.†
Comment icon #6 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
Cancer mutates the cells, if I remember correctly.† Maybe a virus similar to cancer that our bodies tolerate causes evolution? Not all mutations are bad.


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