Archaeologists discovered six cases of cancer when examining the bodies of ancient Egyptians buried long ago in the Dakhleh Oasis.
Findings include a leukemia baby, a mummified man with rectal cancer at the age of 50, and possibly cancerous individuals from human papilloma virus (HPV).
The researchers found these cancer cases when examining 1,087 ancient Egyptians buried between 3,000 and 1,500 years ago.
Researchers who have concluded from these cases estimate that the risk of life-long cancer in the Old Dakhlah Oasis is about 5 in 1000, compared to 50 percent of modern Western societies.
Dr. “If we get out of the way, the risk of cancer for life in today’s Western societies is 100 times higher than in ancient Dakhleh,” says Peter Sheldrick.
Molto, a retired anthropology professor at Western University in Canada, noted that some people in Dakhleh may have died of cancer without leaving a trace, and people in the ancient world have shorter life spans than people of today. However, researchers who add these factors to the account also believe that the risk of cancer is quite low in Ancient Egypt.
In the fifth to sixth episode, scientists determined that cancer was working on lesions (holes and bone damage) in skeletons. These holes were opened as the cancer spread in the body. For example, a 40- or 50-year-old woman had a hole about 6.2 cm in size on the right hip bone that researchers believed was caused by a tumor. Researchers are not sure where the origin of cancer is in the majority of cancer cases.
Three of the six cases (two females and one male) were in the age of 20 or 30, when people were rarely caught in cancer.
“When Dakhleh cases were first presented at professional meetings, the common interpretation of refusing cancer diagnosis was that their ages were very young.
However, recent research has shown that HPV is a major cause of various types of cancer, including those that frequently affect young adults.
“HPV is a confirmed cause of uterine cervical and testicular cancer and has evolved in Africa long before Homo sapiens emerged,” says Molto.
“Two women and one male in Dakhleh, all young adults, may have developed cancer of the uterus and testicles. From the current cancer epidemiology study, we know that both types of cancer peak at young adult cohorts. “
Scientists genetically can not test to see if these three young adults are HPV, but other studies confirm that it exists in the ancient world. This suggests that this virus is probably also present in Dakhleh’s Worl.
No sign of antique treatment
Until now, research on Egyptian medical texts and human remains has revealed no indication that Ancient Egyptians have special treatment for cancer.
Molto said, “They knew it was a bad thing. However, there was no indication of specific treatments for cancer, because they do not understand what cancer is. But ancient Egyptians may have tried to treat some symptoms, such as skin ulcers, “he says.
The researchers hope in the future that more data on cancer and other diseases in today’s Dakhleh Oasis will be collected. This data can be compared with old rates to provide more clues as to how the cancer risk has changed over time.