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Remains of Oldest-Known Cancer Victim in Central America Discovered

Bones of 700-year-old teenager previously discovered yielded a new revelation.

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The 700-year-old partial skeleton of a teenage girl had been buried once, and then interred in storage in a bioarcheoligist’s storage after its initial 1991 testing.

But when Nicole-Smith Guzmán reexamined the remains recently, as Smithsonian notes, she discovered what is believed to be the oldest known evidence of a cancer victim in Central America. (Read her recently published research paper about it.)

Is This the Oldest-Known Cancer Case in Central America?
(Nicole E. Smith-Guzmán)

Dug up in Panama in 1970—in what was a primitive trash dump—the bones are believed to be those of a female teenager, approximately 14–16 years old, who had a tumor on her arm. It is unknown which type of cancer the teen suffered from, but the mass would have appeared as a swollen area on the teen’s arm and hurt intermittently.

Is This the Oldest-Known Cancer Case in Central America?
(Nicole E. Smith-Guzmán)

It’s also unclear whether the tumor led to the teen’s death. “We can never really determine cause of death in bioanthropology,” Smith-Guzmán told Smithsonian. “We might be able to suggest manner of death, but in this case I collaborated on this paper with a specialist in pediatric oncology, (Jeffrey Toretsky of Georgetown University), and he doesn’t think that this person would have died of the cancer.”

Read full story at Smithsonian