Deadly Cancer Existed Even Before Millions Of Years Ago, New Study Finds [VIDEO]

First Posted: Jul 30, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

While, some people believe cancer to be a modern day disease, a new study claims that the deadly disease existed in ancient human ancestors more than a million years ago.

A team of researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand's Evolutionary Studies Institute and the South African Centre for Excellence in PalaeoSciences have found evidence of cancer in a foot bone of a human ancestor dated to approximately 1.7 million years ago, reported BBC. Until now, the oldest possible cancer tumor in a human was found to be 120,000 years old.

The toe bone was excavated from Swartkrans cave in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg. The toe is believed to of one of the early hominins, either Homo ergaster or Paranthropus robustus. The cancer in the metatarsal was identified as an osteosarcoma, a rare and deadly form of bone cancer which is known to affect young age individuals and results in early death if remain untreated.

The researchers found another cancer tumor in the backbone of a two million-year-old Australopithecus sediba fossil from the Malapa cave. The fossil dated to almost two million years in age, reported Nature World News.

Edward Odes of the University of the Witwatersrand, who is also the lead author of the cancer paper, said modern medicine assumes that cancers and tumors in human beings are the result of modern lifestyles and environment. But, the research team's study has found evidence which proves that such deadly diseases occurred in human ancestors millions of years ago, even before the so-called modern industrial societies existed.

Lead author Patrick Randolph-Quinney from the University of Central Lancashire said in a statement that the discovery of the tumor has surprised the researchers not only because it is found in the back, which is an extremely rare place for such a disease to develop in humans, but also because it is found in a child.

The research findings have been published in the South African Journal of Science.

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