CT scans reveal cases of cancer of mummified individuals

A team of researchers has discovered possibly the world’s oldest known cases of breast cancer and multiple bone marrow cancer (myeloma) through computed tomography (CT scans of two mummies from Qubbet el-Hawa in Aswan, Egypt. 

CT scan of a mummified head (by Patricia Mora)

The research team consisting of Egyptian researchers and staff from the Radiodiagnosis Service of the “Campus de la Salud” Hospital in Granada, Spain, employed a next-generation CT scanner capable of performing 124 tomographic slices simultaneously and with a very high degree of precision at the Radiodiagnosis Service of Aswan University Hospital. It was established that the mummies were reduced to bones and were wrapped in a considerable number of bandages. The woman with breast cancer died around 2000 BC., while the man with multiple myeloma died around 1800 BC. Both individuals belonged to the ruling classes (or at least to the wealthy classes) of the governing Egyptian families of Elephantine. According to the scientists, these are the oldest known cases of these diseases to date.


CT image of a mummy (by Patricia Mora)

The same CT scanning technique was also applied to two fully intact mummies from the Late Period of ancient Egypt. The researchers were able to conduct detailed studies, and it turned out that one of the mummies is the body of a boy around 9 years of age, while the other is that of a young teenage girl. No traces of disease have been found within these mummies, making the researchers draw the conclusion that the probable cause of death in these instances were acute infections, which do not leave any marks on bones and if not cured in time might have resulted in death.

(after Patricia Mora, Popular Archaeology & PhysOrg)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.