Scientists just made a huge discovery observing a small toe bone that proves we’ve been battling cancer for at least 1.7 million years.
While taking a close look at prehistoric human fossils using advanced 3D-imaging techniques, researchers from the Universities of Central Lancashire and Witwatersrand found an aggressive and rare type of cancer called osteosarcoma located in a foot bone from a human who died in a South African cave.
“The evidence is out there that these conditions have been with us a long time and we’ve been kind of hoodwinked that cancer is a modernity,” said Patrick S. Randolph-Quinney, an author of the study published in the South African Journal of Science. “These things are ancient.”
While they’re not sure whether the foot bone belonged to a child or an adult or if it was the ultimate cause of death, they do know it would have affected their ability to move normally and that it would have been rather painful.
Before now, the oldest discovered human cancer was between 780,000 and 120,000 years old.
“You can opt for the Paleo diet, you can have as clean a living environment as you want, but the capacity for these diseases is ancient, and it’s within us regardless of what you do to yourselves,” said Edward Odes from the University of the Witwatersrand.
The research team plans to use their findings to further understand how cancers evolve over time.