Here's a 120,000 Year Old Tumour Found Inside a Neanderthal

By Casey Chan on at

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]