Paleo-oncology – messages from the past

Molnár Erika (1), Marcsik Antónia (1), Pálfi György (1), Zádori Péter (2), Buczkó Krisztina (3), Vellainé Takács Krisztina (4), Hajdu Tamás (4)
(1) Szegedi Tudományegyetem Természettudományi és Informatikai Kar, Biológiai Intézet, Embertani Tanszék, Szeged
(2) Kaposvári Egyetem Egészségügyi Központ, Kaposvár
(3) Magyar Természettudományi Múzeum, Növénytár, Budapest
(4) Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem Természettudományi Kar, Biológiai Intézet, Embertani Tanszék, Budapest

Nowadays, cancer is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind. However, there is still no consensus among researchers regarding the antiquity of cancer. Written sources and paleo-oncological studies may help to answer this question. The aim of this study is to present data on the history of cancer based on historical sources, literature data and own research fi ndings. Early historical sources indicate that cancer was already known in antiquity. Paleopathological studies of animal and human fossils show that malignant bone tumors were present in ancient times, although the frequency of the disease was seemingly very low. The increasing number of unearthed fossils and the use of modern diagnostic tools have led to a rise of the number of diagnosed cancer cases. Our comprehensive paleo-oncological study, focusing on the occurrence and frequency change of malignant tumors in historic populations of Hungary was based on the analysis of skeletal remains belonging to 11,000 individuals dated from the Early Neolithic to the late medieval period. During the analysis macromorphological, modern imaging and histological methods were applied. As a result of the extensive investigations osteological evidences of malignant bone tumors were identifi ed in 39 cases. Neoplastic bone diseases were present in all studied historical periods and there were no differences in their occurrence and frequency between the different archaeological periods.

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