Scientists believe they have discovered the oldest case of prostate cancer in Egypt after scans on a 2,250-year-old mummy showed the man died a slow and painful death from the disease.
The unnamed Ptolemaic mummy, which is kept at the National Archaeology Museum of Lisbon, had a pattern of round and dense tumours between its pelvis and lumbar spine - giveaway signs of man's modern-day killer.
The mummy was that of a 5ft 5ins adult male* who lived between 285 and 230 BC and was between 51 and 60 years old when he died, researchers said.
'The bone lesions were considered very suggestive of metastatic prostate cancer,*' wrote the researchers in the International Journal of Paleopathology.
They subjected the mummy, known as M1, to powerful Multi Detector Computerized Tomography* (MDCT*) scans, which produced* 'really unusual high quality images', Carlos Prates,* a radiologist at Imagens Médicas Integradas in Lisbon, told Discovery News.
Digital X-rays showed that M1* had been buried with crossed arms* - a common pose in Ptolemaic mummies,* although in the New Kingdom it was often associated with royals*.
He was adorned with a cartonnage mask and bib,* and boasted an elaborately painted shroud.
The images showed he suffered from lumbosacral osteoarthritis,* which was probably related to a lower lumbar scoliosis and there were several* post-mortem fractures,* possibly produced when the mummy was transported to Europe.
But they also found a variety of tumors,* measuring between* 0.03ins* and* 0.59*inches,* interspersed* along M1*’s pelvis and lumbar spine.*
Prostatic carcinoma begins in the walnut-sized prostate gland and typically spreads to the pelvic region,* the lumbar spine,* the upper arm and leg bones, and the ribs,* ultimately reaching most of the skeleton.*
Dr Prates and colleagues* considered other diseases as alternatives.* But* M1*'s sex,* age,* the* distribution pattern of the lesions,* their shape and density,* strongly argued for prostate cancer.
'It is the oldest known case of prostate cancer in ancient Egypt and the* second* oldest case in history,*' Dr Prates said.
The earliest diagnosis of* metastasising prostate carcinoma came in* 2007 when researchers investigated the skeleton of a* 2,700-year-old Scythian king who died,* aged* 40 to 50,* in the steppe of Southern Siberia,* Russia.*
'This study shows that cancer did exist in antiquity,* for sure in ancient Egypt.* The main reason for the scarcity of examples found today might be the lower prevalence of carcinogens and the shorter life expectancy,*' Paula Veiga,* a researcher in Egyptology,* told Discovery News.
Moreover,* high-resolution CT scanners,* able to detect tiny* tumors* only became available only in* 2005., which suggests earlier researchers may have missed them.