This story was reported by The Portugal News back in November 2011, but seems to have been picked up only recently by other media.
An international research team in Lisbon has diagnosed the oldest case of prostate cancer in ancient Egypt and the second oldest case in the world.
Using high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scanners, the researchers identified the cancer in a mummy subject known as M1.
“Cancer is such a hot topic these days; experts are constantly trying to probe in hopes of answering the one question- when and how did the ailment really evolve?” said Salima Ikram; member of the research team and professor of Egyptology at The American University in Cairo (AUC).
“Findings such as these bring us one step closer to finding the cause of cancer, and, ultimately, the cure to a disease that has besieged mankind for so long.”
A professor from American University in Cairo says discovery of prostate cancer in a 2,200-year-old mummy indicates the disease was caused by genetics, not environment.
The genetics-environment question is key to understanding cancer.
AUC professor Salima Ikram, a member of the team that studied the mummy in Portugal for two years, said Sunday the mummy was of a man who died in his forties.
She said this was the second oldest known case of prostate cancer.
"Living conditions in ancient times were very different; there were no pollutants or modified foods, which leads us to believe that the disease is not necessarily only linked to industrial factors," she said.
The Medical Daily (Christine Hsu)
The mummy was that of an adult male with a height of five feet and five inches who lived between 285BC to 230 BC and died when he was between the ages of 51 to 60-years-old, according to researchers.
Images also showed that the mummified man suffered from lumbosacral osteoarthritis and that there were several post-mortem fractures that were probably produced when the mummy was shipped to Europe.
Digital X-ray scans revealed that the mummy had been buried with crossed arms, a common pose in Ptolemaic mummies, which in the New Kingdom was often associated with royals.
M1 was buried with a cartonnage mask and bib, and had a decoratively painted veil.
Prostate cancer develops in the prostate, a walnut-sized gland in the male reproductive system, and may spread to other pelvic regions like the lumbar spine, upper arm and leg bones, the ribs, and can ultimately spread to most of the skeleton. Problems with urinating, sexual intercourse or erectile dysfunction are all likely symptoms of the disease.