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Ancient Egyptians tried to treat cancer

A new study of ancient skulls shows that Egyptian healers attempted to treat brain cancer more than 4,000 years ago, demonstrating their advanced medical knowledge, The Independent reports.

The skull, discovered during excavations in Egypt, belonged to a man who was around 30-35 years old at the time of his death. The cuts found on it were most likely made with a sharp object, suggesting that ancient Egyptians may have attempted to operate on tumours.

The researchers found cut marks on the skull around a large tumour, which is thought to have been caused by a cancerous growth. They also found 30 smaller lesions throughout the skull, suggesting the cancer had spread.

According to the researchers, these incisions were likely made with a sharp object, also suggesting that ancient Egyptians may have attempted to operate on the tumour.

Tatiana Tondini, a researcher at the University of Tubingen in Germany, said:

When we first observed the cutmarks under the microscope, we could not believe what was in front of us.

But Professor Edgard Camaros, a palaeopathologist at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, said the surgical cuts could be the result of a medical autopsy to learn more about the disease after death. He said:

This finding is unique evidence of how ancient Egyptian medicine would have tried to deal with or explore cancer more than 4,000 years ago. This is an extraordinary new perspective in our understanding of the history of medicine.

The team said its research, published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine, suggest that while cancer is often seen as a man-made disease caused by environmental factors such as pollution and diet, the disease also affected ancient civilisations.

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