These Skeletons from an Ancient Egypt Cemetery Were                Riddled with Cancer
This image show the mummy of an ancient Egyptian man in his 50s who had rectal cancer.
Credit: Image courtesy El Molto

Archaeologists have uncovered six cases of cancer while studying the bodies of ancient Egyptians who were buried long ago in the Dakhleh Oasis. The finds include a toddler with leukemia, a mummified man in his 50s with rectal cancer and individuals with cancer possibly caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).

The researchers found these cancer cases while examining the remains of 1,087 ancient Egyptians buried between 3,000 and 1,500 years ago.

Extrapolating from these cases, the researchers estimated that the lifetime cancer risk in the ancient Dakhleh Oasis was about 5 in 1,000, compared with 50 percent in modern Western societies, wrote El Molto and Dr. Peter Sheldrick in a paper published in a special cancer issue of the International Journal of Paleopathology. "Thus, the lifetime cancer risk in today's Western societies is 100 times greater than in ancient Dakhleh," they wrote. [Photos: Ancient Egyptian Cemetery with 1 Million Mummies]