LIVING

Oldest Cancer? Human Victim May Be 3,200 Years Old

03/19/2014 09:16 EDT | Updated 03/19/2014 10:59 EDT

The world's oldest known cancer victim may have been unearthed on the banks of the River Nile in Sudan.

Discovered last year by Michaela Binder of Durham University, the 3,200-year-old bones bear grim testimony to the disease: the pockmarks and perforations of metastatic cancer -- the term used to describe the disease's spread from one area of the body to another.

In the abstract to her paper, published this week in the science journal PLOS ONE, Binder writes:

"Cancer, one of the world’s leading causes of death today, remains almost absent relative to other pathological conditions, in the archaeological record, giving rise to the conclusion that the disease is mainly a product of modern living and increased longevity."

Today, an unfortunate young man who lived around 1200 BC in northern Sudan, begs to differ. Binder found cancer-ridden body in a painted wooden coffin along with a glazed amulet, according to Durham University News.

Termites and other environmental factors were ruled out in laboratory testing. Which left Binder with just one ominous conclusion.

Cancer has been with us for a long, long time.

“It was likely a less prevalent disease than it is today but this shows that many factors in the environment that have been shown to cause cancer have been around a long time,” she told ABC News.

The cause of the young man's cancer remains elusive to researchers, Reuters reports -- possibly stemming from the carcinogens found in smoky wood fires. Infectious disease or genetic factors may also have played a role.

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