Oldest Known Human Cancer Found

Side image of the metatarsal

Previously the oldest reported form of cancer was 120,000 years old. In a new paper published in the South African Journal of Science, an international team of researchers led by scientists from Witwatersrand University reported discovering a 1.7 million-year-old metatarsal attacked by an osteosarcoma, according to IFLScience.com

"Due to its preservation, we don't know whether the single cancerous foot bone belongs to an adult or child, nor whether the cancer caused the death of this individual, but we can tell this would have affected the individuals' ability to walk or run," said paper co-author Dr. Bernhard Zipfel. 

In an accompanying paper published in the same journal, a collaborating team of scientists identify the oldest tumor ever found in the human fossil record, a benign neoplasm found in the vertebrae of an Australopithecus sediba child, dated almost 2 million years ago, according to EurekaAlert

"Modern medicine tends to assume that cancers and tumors in humans are diseases caused by modern lifestyles and environments," Edward Odes, a Wits doctoral candidate, lead author of the cancer paper, and co-author of the tumor paper said. "Our studies show the origins of these diseases occurred in our ancient relatives millions of years before modern industrial societies existed."

Read more in the statement here.