Researchers Find Cancer in Ancient Egyptian Mummy

January 29, 2012 - 11:25 AM
Mummy Heart Disease

In this image made available by the Mission Internal Medical Group on Tuesday May, 17, 2011, the mummy of Maiherpri (New Kingdom,18th Dynasty,1550-1295 BC),is prepared for CT scanning in the Egyptian Museum Cairo May 10, 2010. An Egyptian princess who lived more than 3,500 years ago is the oldest known person to have had clogged arteries, dispelling the myth that heart disease is a symptom of modern society, a new study says. To determine how widespread heart disease was in ancient Egypt, international scientists performed computer scans on 52 mummies in Cairo and the U.S. About half of the mummies were those of people who held elite positions in the pharaoh's court. Among the mummies who still had heart tissue, 44 had chunks of calcium stuck to their arteries. (AP Photo/Dr. Michael Miyamoto, MD) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

CAIRO (AP) — 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.

A statement from AUC says the oldest known case came from a 2,700 year-old skeleton of a king in Russia.