2,000-year-old mummy found to have metastatic prostate cancer

According to a new report from a team of Portuguese and Egyptian researchers, an unnamed, wrapped, Ptolemaic mummy‭ from about‭ ‬285‭–2‬30‭ ‬BCE‭ has been shown to have died with (and probably of) metastatic prostate cancer.

The original paper by Prates et al. is currently in press in the International Journal of Paleopathology. (Who knew there even was such a journal?) A detailed summary of the new report has been published on line on the Discovery.com web site.

The research indicates the following:

  • The individual was an adult male‭, ‬about‭ ‬65 inches in height,‭ ‬who was between‭ ‬51‭ ‬and‭ ‬60‭ ‬years old when he died.
  • High resolution tomographic imaging indicated a pattern of round and dense tumors,‭ ‬measuring between‭ ‬0.03‭ ‬and‭ ‬0.59‭ ‬inches,‭ in the mummy’s pelvis and lumbar spine.‭
  • “The bone lesions were considered very suggestive of metastatic prostate cancer,” based on the‭ ‬distribution pattern of the lesions,‭ ‬their shape and their density. ‬
  • The individual also suffered from lumbosacral osteoarthritis,‭ ‬which was probably related to a lower lumbar scoliosis.
  • Several‭ ‬post-mortem fractures were evident (although these may have been the consequence of mishandling when the mummy was transported to Europe).

This is the oldest known case of prostate cancer identified to date from an Egyptian burial site. However, one older case of prostate cancer is known — in a Scythian king from about 2,700 BCE.

One Response

  1. Remarkably, our remedies today are conceptually identical to those of the Scythians, who knew to drink estrogen-rich mare’s urine to help restore “prostate health.”

    And you, mummy dearest, did you also drink mare’s urine?

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