Cancer-like disease detected in 2,900-year-old mummy

Washington: About 2,900 years after he was mummified, scientists have uncovered that the ancient Egyptian man, likely in his 20s, died of a rare, cancer-like disease that may also have left him with a type of diabetes.

    A team of doctors who looked at the mummy, which is now in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb in Croatia, found that while mummifying, the embalmers removed the man’s brain, may be through the nose; poured resin-like fluid into his head and pelvis; took out some of his organs and inserted four linen ‘packets’ into his body.

    His body showed telltale signs that he suffered from Hand-Schuller-Christian disease, an enigmatic condition in which Langerhans cells, a type of immune cell found in the skin, multiply rapidly.

    “They tend to replace normal structure of the bone and all other soft tissues,” Dr Mislav Cavka, a medical doctor at the University of Zagreb who is one of the study’s leaders, told Live Science. “We could say it is one sort of cancer.”

    Scientists are still not sure what causes the disease, but it is very rare, affecting about one in 560,000 young adults, more often males. “In ancient times it was lethal, always,” said Cavka, who added that today it can be treated.

    The mummy was believed to have transferred to the 2,300 year-old sarcophagus of a woman named Kareset, and until now scientists had assumed that it belonged to the lady.

    Cavka and colleagues said the disease seems to have taken a terrible toll on the ancient man’s body, with images revealing it destroyed parts of his skeleton, leaving lytic lesions throughout his spine and skull.


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