Tumors in Paleopathology: Evidences From Mummies

Valentina Giuffra, Gino Fornaciari


The relative abundance of neoplastic lesions documented so far in paleopathological literature, distributed over a wide lapse of time and in different geographic areas, demonstrates that a number of tumours affected past populations. nevertheless, if dozens of cases of tumors affecting the skeleton are reported, only a few records are documented in soft tissues. The rarity of tumors in mummies is a debated problem; short life span of past populations, scarcity of mummified remains arrived to us in comparison with skeletal remains and technical difficulties to detect neoplastic lesions in ancient tissues seem to be the main reasons of the rarity of findings.

it is important to pay maximum attention to any little sign of neoplastic lesion in ancient human remains, in order to increase our limited knowledge about the type of tumours and relative incidence afflicting our ancestors. comparison with modern data could help understand the evolution patterns of cancer in the history of Mankind. 

Key words: Cancro - Paleopatologia - Mummie 

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