(NPR) A bone from a human ancestor that died between 1.8 million and 1.6 million years ago shows evidence of cancer, a newly published study finds. It is the oldest known example of a malignant tumor in a human ancestor.
The bone belonged to a hominin, an extinct relative of modern humans that lived and died in what is now South Africa. The foot bone, specifically the metatarsal that runs between the ankle and the pinky toe, was originally excavated between 1960 and 1980 from the Swartkrans cave, part of a World Heritage Site in South Africa called the Cradle of Humankind for its many hominin bones…
As for what kind of bone cancer, exactly, this human ancestor suffered from, the researchers are not sure, but their best guess is that it was some variety of osteosarcoma. Today, the American Cancer Society says osteosarcoma is the most common type of cancer that develops in bones.
This tumor is far from the earliest example of cancer. Evidence of malignant tumors has been found in dinosaur bones. Many scientists believe tumors, which are the result of uncontrolled cell growth, have been around as long as multicellular organisms.[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]