Prostate Cancer Is Nothing New
2,250-year-old mummy, with second-oldest case of confirmed prostate cancer, points to genetic as well as environmental factors.
We are not alone. We are not necessarily victims of an new age that confers cancer to patients more often than in the past.
As science progresses, we discover answers about lethal disease such as cancer by looking at recent cases as well as from looking back–way back. This week’s news that prostate cancer was confirmed in a 2,250-year old Egyptian mummy gives added support to the idea that genetics indeed play a role in the onset, aggressiveness and metastasis of prostate cancer. This mummy, known only as M1, was confirmed to have bone metastases with small tumors found in his pelvis, lumbar spine, upper arms and legs bones, areas of the body in which metastases are most commonly found.
Salima Ikram, a professor from the American University in Cairo, was a member of the team that studied the mummy in Portugal for two years. According to Ikram, the mummy indicates that the disease was caused by genetics, not environment. “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,” says Ikram.
Until the late 1990s, with cancer discovered in only 176 of over tens of thousands of skeletal remain s that had been discovered, it was widely believed that cancer was rare in ancient times and that increases in cancer cases accelerated with the the industrial age and a resulting increase in environmental carcinogens. Improvements in imaging, using multi-detector CT, and DNA scanning are changing that belief. The earliest detection of prostate cancer in the world came from a 2,700-year-old skeleton of a Scythian king in Russia, leading scientists to suspect that cancer was prevalent in the past, despite the scarcity of recorded cases. DNA is lasting, like gold dust. It can confirm the specific presence of prostate and other cancers.
Whoever this poor man was, he is estimated to have been between 51 and 60 when he died. I am sure he died a slow and painful death without the diagnostics and the numerous treatment options that are available to us today. We live in much better times for dealing with cancers. We not only have a better understanding of the role of genetics in cancer, more identified drug targets and drugs in development, we are rapidly expanding our knowledge of how we can improve our diet and exercise practices to improve outcomes.
We can be grateful for that. And we should be grateful to M1. He and his family will never have the satisfaction of knowing is how M1 is helping the fight against prostate cancer more two thousand years after his death.
Thank you, M1. I am sorry you were one of the earliest member of the PCa fraternity but, your contributions are certainly most appreciated.