London - The oldest evidence of breast cancer ever discovered is believed to have been found in the 4,200-year-old skeleton of an adult woman. The bones were in the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa near the city of Aswan in southern Egypt.

Anthropologists from the University of Jaen in Spain who found them said the woman was an aristocrat from Elephantine, Egypt’s southernmost town.

Egypt’s antiquities minister, Mamdouh el-Damaty, said the bones of the woman, who lived at the end of the 6th Pharaonic Dynasty, showed ‘an extraordinary deterioration’.

He added: ‘The study of her remains shows the typical destructive damage provoked by the extension of a breast cancer as a metastasis.’ A metastasis is when a cancer spreads from one organ to another.

Despite being one of the world’s leading causes of death today, cancer is virtually absent in archaeological records compared to other diseases – which has given rise to the idea that cancers are mainly attributable to modern lifestyles and to people living longer.

But the discovery, along with evidence reported last year by British researchers of metastatic cancer in a 3,000-year-old skeleton found in a tomb in modern Sudan, suggests cancer was around in the Nile Valley in ancient times.

Daily Mail