Abnormal growth in a 1.6-million- to 1.8-million-year-old toe bone was malignant tumor
Cancer goes way, way back. A deadly form of this disease and a noncancerous but still serious tumor afflicted members of the human evolutionary family nearly 2 million years ago, two new investigations of fossils suggest.
If those conclusions hold up, cancers are not just products of modern societies, as some researchers have proposed. “Our studies show that cancers and tumors occurred in our ancient relatives millions of years before modern industrial societies existed,” says medical anthropologist Edward Odes of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, a coauthor of both new studies. Today, however, pesticides, longer life spans and other features of the industrialized world may increase rates of cancers and tumors.
A 1.6-million- to 1.8-million-year-old hominid, either from the Homo genus or a dead-end line called Paranthropus,