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Colon-Cancer Gene Discovered in 18th-Century Mummy

Monday, February 29, 2016

Hungary colon cancer TEL AVIV, ISRAEL—An eighteenth-century Hungarian mummy has been found to have a genetic predisposition to colorectal cancer by a team led by Rina Rosin-Arbesfeld and Ella H. Sklan of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. The mummy was one of more than 265 found in the cool, dry crypts in use between 1731 and 1838 at a church in Vác, Hungary. The well-preserved soft tissues, paired with abundant archival information about the deceased, provide medical researchers with valuable samples. “Colorectal cancer is among the most common health hazards of modern times. And it has a proven genetic background. We wanted to discover whether it was the same mutation known to us today,” Rosin-Arbesfeld said in a press release. Colon cancer is also known to be caused by the modern problems of obesity, physical inactivity, and processed food. “Our data reveal that one of the mummies may have had a cancer mutation. This means that a genetic predisposition to cancer may have already existed in the pre-modern era,” Sklan said. “But we’ve found this mutation in only one individual so far. Additional studies with a larger sample size should be conducted in order to draw more meaningful conclusions,” she added. To read more about the study of cancer, go to "Ancient Oncology." 

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