Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Riddled remains

Michaela Binder, a doctoral student at Durham University in the U.K., has made a momentous discovery at the Amara West site in northern Sudan. The young adult male skeleton that she excavated (IMAGE ABOVE) dates to around 1200 B.C.E. and is riddled with disease (IMAGE HERE) in the vertebrae, ribs, sternum, clavicles, scapulae, pelvis, and humeral and femoral heads. Radiographic, microscopic, and scanning electron microscopic (SEM) imaging shows multiple, mainly osteolytic, lesions pointing to a diagnosis of metastatic carcinoma secondary to an unknown soft tissue cancer. The skeleton is therefore the earliest complete example in the world of a human who suffered metastatic cancer to date – predating the previous confirmed instance by 2,000 years. And why is this so important? Cancer in ancient populations proves that it is not, in fact, a modern-day disease spurred on by today's unhealthy lifestyles, including smoking, poor eating habits, and stress.


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