CT scans unearth ancient cases of cancer in mummies

Cancer may be older than people realize; it has been around as far back as the Late Period of ancient Egypt, according to CT scans of mummies analyzed by an international team of researchers.

The group led by Dr. Miguel Cecilio Botella López from the University of Granada performed CT exams on a collection of Egyptian mummies discovered in the tomb of Pharaoh Qubbet el-Hawa in Aswan. They used a CT scanner at Aswan University Hospital for the imaging, which enabled them to visualize the insides of the mummies without disturbing their wrapping, the way traditional techniques might.

The exams revealed that two mummies had cancer: a female with breast cancer who died around 2000 B.C. and a male with multiple myeloma, or bone marrow cancer, who died around 1800 B.C., according to the university. Their estimated ages before death suggest the two mummies with cancer belonged to a society with sufficient resources to care for their health during a time when no cures or treatments are thought to have been available.

With this dating, the mummies mark the oldest known cases of breast cancer and multiple myeloma, the university noted.

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