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Oldest Evidence of Human Cancer Found in Africa

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Valerie Varnuska of Westbury, NY, enthusiastically pursues knowledge about the ancient and prehistoric world. Valerie Varnuska enjoys learning about paleontology, paleoanthropology, and related disciplines that uncover life before written records.

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Oldest Evidence of Human Cancer Found in Africa

  1. 1. OLDEST EVIDENCE OF HUMAN CANCER FOUND IN AFRICA Valerie Varnuska
  2. 2. Introduction  Valerie Varnuska of Westbury, NY, enthusiastically pursues knowledge about the ancient and prehistoric world. Valerie Varnuska enjoys learning about paleontology, paleoanthropology, and related disciplines that uncover life before written records. In late July of 2016, scientists announced the oldest recorded case of cancer in a human specimen. The specimen comes from a region known as the Cradle of Humankind, where excavations have uncovered numerous hominid fossils. This particular fossil is a foot bone from a member of an early human species, likely homo ergaster or paranthropus robustus. Upon examining the foot of this human ancestor, scientists found a particularly aggressive osteosarcoma. This particular type of cancer is today found primarily in younger patients and has a characteristic cauliflower-like appearance, which helped the research team to definitively identify the sample.
  3. 3. Human Cancer  At 1.6 to 1.8 million years old, this specimen is the oldest malignant tumor in the fossil record. The same research team has also identified a benign tumor in the rib of a young male Australopithecus hominin. This individual, the developmental equal of a young boy in early adolescence, has given science the first evidence of a tumor in a young person. These discoveries reveal that cancer is not a disease caused by civilization, but rather one that is in the human genome from its oldest ancestors. However, scientists do note that changes in the human environment causes such diseases to manifest in new and often unexpected ways.

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