Neandertals Got Tumors, Too

From Science:

Neanderthal-bone-tumor_68206_200x150Neandertals living 120,000 years ago in what is now Croatia were not exposed to industrial chemicals, and they ate a diet free from processed foods. Yet, that didn't spare them from our modern-day maladies. Scientists have discovered the first known case of a tumor in the rib of a Neandertal man that dates to more than 120,000 years ago. The oldest known human tumor is from less than 4000 years ago. “Relatively little is known about [tumor] prevalence in antiquity,” says forensic anthropologist Douglas Ubelaker of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the new work. This result “is very useful for understanding the roots of this disease.”

The bone—part of an upper left rib from an adult male Neandertal—was originally unearthed between 1899 and 1905 during the excavation of Krapina, a cave in northern Croatia which has yielded hundreds of ancient human remains. But the rib was misfiled and ignored for almost a century until, in 1999, it was briefly described in a list of specimens. More recently, anthropologist David Frayer of the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and colleagues began studying the pathologies of bones in the Krapina collections. It was immediately clear that the rib fragment—specimen 120.17 in the collection—wasn't normal. “The bone is broken away so you can look into the marrow chamber, where even in a child, you'd expect to see spongy bone,” Frayer says. “But in this rib, instead of there being a mesh of bone there, it's completely vacant.”

More here.