Neanderthals weren't smoking cigarettes. They weren't breathing in pollution. They weren't eating processed foods. They weren't dealing with pesticides. Nope. But apparently, Neanderthals still got cancer. This 120,000-year-old bone fragment reveals a cancerous tumour: Neanderthals, they're just like us.
The case of fibrous dysplasia in this Neanderthal bone is believed to be the oldest tumour ever found. It predates other tumours by a 100,000 years, which ain't no small chunk of change. David Frayer, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas and co-author of the paper revealing this discovery, theorises:
"They didn't have pesticides, but they probably were sleeping in caves with burning fires. They were probably inhaling a lot of smoke from the caves. So the air was not completely free of pollutants—but certainly, these Neanderthals weren't smoking cigarettes."
To discover the tumour, the researchers used a micro-CT scan machine which cuts up an image into different frames. The 1.18-inch long Neanderthal rib bone was sliced to 500 distinct frames which let researchers study every micron of the bone, thus revealing the tumour. [PLOS ONE via National Geographic via Neatorama]