Prostate Cancer Discovered in Ancient Egyptian Mummy
November 5, 2011

Prostate Cancer Discovered in Ancient Egyptian Mummy

Researchers with the Imagens Médicas Integradas (IMI) in Lisbon, Portugal believe that they have discovered the oldest ever case of prostate cancer in Egypt, thanks to scans performed on a 2,250-year-old mummy at the city's National Archaeology Museum.

The discovery, which has been detailed in the International Journal of Paleopathology and was also the topic of a Thursday article by Simon Tomlinson of the Daily Mail, comes after IMI researchers discovered tumors between the pelvis and lumbar spine of an unnamed Ptolemaic mummy by using high-powered digital imaging technology.

According to Tomlinson, the 5-foot, 5-inch adult male mummy was between 51 and 60 years of age when he died, and the researchers said in their paper that the bone lesions they discovered were "very suggestive of metastatic prostate cancer."

Those lesions were discovered using Multi Detector Computerized Tomography“­ (“¬MDCT“­).

The Daily Mail reported that digital x-rays illustrated that the mummy, which has been dubbed M1, had been buried with its arms crossed (which was common for Ptolemaic mummies), had a cartonnage mask and bib, and had what was described as an "elaborately painted shroud."

From the images, the researchers discovered tumors varying in size between 0.03 inches and 0.59 inches from throughout his pelvis and lumbar spine.

They also learned that M1 suffered from lumbosacral osteoarthritis,“­ “¬which according to Tomlinson "was probably related to a lower lumbar scoliosis and there were several“­ post-mortem fractures,“­ “¬possibly produced when the mummy was transported to Europe."

Based on the evidence on hand, the Daily Mail reports that the male likely died "a painful death" as a result of the prostate cancer, making it the oldest known case of prostate cancer ever discovered in ancient Egypt and the second oldest in recorded history.

"This study shows that cancer did exist in antiquity,“­ “¬for sure in ancient Egypt.“­ “¬The main reason for the scarcity of examples found today might be the lower prevalence of carcinogens and the shorter life expectancy,“­" “¬Paula Veiga,“­ “¬a researcher in Egyptology,“­ “¬told Discovery News in an article on the topic reprinted on

Improved technology is being credited for the discovery. According to Rossella Lorenzi of Discovery News, prior to 2005, high-resolution CT scan technology was unavailable, meaning that researchers could have missed several cases of the disease due to the limits of their equipment.

"The earliest diagnosis of“­ “¬metastasizing prostate carcinoma came in“­ “¬2007,“­ “¬when researchers investigated the skeleton of a“­ “¬2,700-year-old Scythian king who died,“­ “¬aged“­ “¬40-50,“­ “¬in the steppe of Southern Siberia,“­ “¬Russia," added Lorenzi.


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