The earliest known cases of cancer have been found in two Egyptian mummies.
A team of scientists conducted CT scans on the mummies and found that a 4,000-year-old female mummy had breast cancer, while a 3,800-year-old male mummy had multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, according to a release by the University of Granada in Dec. 2017.
The mummies were found at a tomb site in the city of Aswan, Eygpt. The two individuals are believed to have been part of the ruling elite, or at least the wealthy class, of the time.
The researchers used CT scanning rather than other traditional analysis methods as it allowed for the dressing and body to remain intact. It also produced more precise results. Using a next-generation CT scanner, scientists were able to scan for 126 images simultaneously.
“[CT scans] is more precise when it comes to ascertaining information about the insides of the mummies, as well as capturing minute details in the dressing and about the embalming techniques employed,” said the statement.
The two mummies had been reduced to bones, and were wrapped in a large amount of bandages.
The finding confirms that the disease existed in ancient times, earlier than previously thought.
According to the researchers, the study also revealed that society at that time was advanced enough to dedicate resources to support the two individuals during the course of their illnesses.
“[The findings] show there was a complex society behind the two people who died, which took care of them and gave them resources until they died. From a social point of view, that’s really important,” said lead researcher, Professor Miguel Cecilio Botella Lopez.