Woman Diagnosed With Breast Cancer 4,200 Years Too Late

Ancient Egyptian woman’s bones show signs of cancer, perhaps the oldest known case in the world.



National Breast Cancer Awareness Month isn’t for another several months, but it’s always a good time to put the spotlight on breast cancer, which is the leading type of cancer in women.  A Spanish university team are credited with discovering this fascinating case; Egyptian authorities are already calling it the world’s oldest evidence of breast cancer — about 4,200 years old, in the skeleton of an adult woman.  Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said these bones were of a woman who was living at the end of the 6th Pharaonic Dynasty (2200 BC) and show an “extraordinary deterioration.”

“The study of her remains shows the typical destructive damage provoked by the extension of a breast cancer as a metastasis,” he said in a Facebook statement.

One of Earth’s leading causes of death these days, it has been confusing as to why the disease doesn’t show up much in archaeological records.  This has lead some people to believe and spread the idea that cancers are mainly caused by modern day lifestyles, or worse, by evil scientists running wild!  The recent findings concerning this woman, along with a report by British researchers in 2014 about  cancer in a 3,000-year-old skeleton found in a tomb in Sudan, give us the picture that people in the ancient Nile valley knew of the disease.  Well, at least, experienced the disease.

Based at the University of Jaen and led by Miguel Ortega of the University of Granada, the Spanish research team said that this woman was an aristocrat from Elephantine.  The remains were discovered in the necropolis known as Qubbet el-Hawa, west of Aswan city, the ministry reported.  “The virulence of the disease impeded her to carry out any kind of labor, but she was treated and taken care during a long period until her death.”


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