The oldest human tumor ever dated has now been found in the bones of a neanderthal. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have published a new study in the journal PLOS ONE stating that the tumor was a form of fibrous dysplasia, which takes the place of a bone’s inner material.
The tumor, which was found in the rib of a neanderthal, dates back some 120,000 years. The neanderthal is estimated to have been a young male who died young, though it’s not clear whether the tumor contributed to his death. The tumor was found using u-CT scans and X-rays on the bone, which came from a major 1899 anthropological find in a Croatian cave. The previous record holders for oldest tumor were only around 1,000 to 4,000 years old.
Janet Monge, a professor of anthropology and the keeper of physical anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, led the research. She stated that the tumor is the exact same type still seen today, caused by a genetic mutation that turns the inside of bones soft.
“This tumor may provide another link between Neandertals and modern peoples, links currently being reinforced with genetic and archaeological evidence,” said Monge. “Part of our ancestry is indeed with Neandertals – we grow the same way in our bones and teeth and share the same diseases.”