Detailed research of a 700-year-old skeleton of a girl in Panama shows that she is the oldest cancer patient found to date in the region.
A CT scan shows that 700 years ago a teenage girl from Panama had a tumor in her arm.
In 1970, archaeologists in Panama found the skeleton of a girl aged 14 to 16 years.
The girl died around 1300 and was buried in fetal position and with her head down at what was an old landfill. In the grave were also two earthen pots and a shell trumpet, a so-called conch.
A conch - a trumpet made from a shell.© Creative Commons
47 years after the discovery, a CT scan was made of the skeleton, and it appears that the girl had cancer in her right upper arm.
Tumor was painful
The tumor was discovered by bio-archaeologist Nicole Smith-Guzmán. She suspects that it is an osteosarcoma, the most common form of bone cancer in children and adolescents.
The girl was probably in pain as the tumor grew, and her arm was probably thick and swollen.
"As far as we know, this is the oldest cancer case in Central America," Nicole Smith-Guzmán told LiveScience.com.
It is rare for cancer to be found in a young person. The vast majority of cancer cases have been found in adults.
Oldest case is 1.7 million years old
In the last ten years, researchers around the world have found many old and prehistoric cases of cancer. The oldest case to date is a 1.7 million-year-old bone from South Africa.
Few cases are known from Central America, where the teenage girl was found, which makes this discovery even rarer.