An international research team in Lisbon, Portugal has diagnosed the oldest case of prostate cancer in ancient Egypt  and the second oldest case in the world. Using high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scanners, the researchers identified the cancer in a mummy subject known as M1."Cancer is such a hot topic these days; experts are constantly trying to probe in hopes of answering the one question- when and how did the ailment really evolve?” said Salima Ikram; member of the research team and professor of Egyptology at The American University in Cairo (AUC). “Findings such as these bring us one step closer to finding the cause of cancer, and, ultimately, the cure to a disease that has besieged mankind for so long.”
The study, published in the International Journal of Paleopathology used CT scans with pixel resolution of 0.33 millimeters on three Egyptian mummies from the collection of the National Archaeological Museum in Lisbon. The images revealed several small, round, dense bone lesions located mainly in M1’s pelvis, spine and proximal limbs, indicative of metastatic prostate cancer.
Until recently, researchers have believed the widespread occurrence of carcinogens in food and in the environment were the main causes of cancer in the modern industrial age. However, according to Ikram, “We’re starting to see that the causes of cancer seem to be less environmental, more genetic. Living conditions in ancient times were very different; there were no pollutants or modified foods, which leads us to believe that the disease is not necessarily only linked to industrial factors.”
Ikram suggested that there are more deaths attributable to cancer today simply because people are living longer. “Life expectancy in ancient Egyptian societies ranged from 30 to 40 years, meaning that those afflicted with the disease were probably dying from reasons other than its progression,” she argued.
The earliest detection of prostate cancer in the world came from the 2,700-year-old skeleton of a Scythian king in Russia, leading scientists to suspect that cancer was quite prevalent in the past despite the scarcity of recorded cases.