CAIRO (The Blaze/AP) -- A professor from American University in Cairo says the discovery of prostate cancer in a 2,200-year-old mummy indicates the disease was caused by genetics, not environment.
The genetics-environment question is vital to completely understanding cancer.
AUC professor Salima Ikram, a member of the team that studied the mummy in Portugal for two years, said Sunday the mummy was of a man who died in his forties.
"Living conditions in ancient times were very different; there were no pollutants or modified foods, which leads us to believe that the disease is not necessarily only linked to industrial factors," she said.
The Daily Mail reports the researchers stating that bone lesions they found were indicative of prostate cancer in this mummy, the second oldest known case of the disease:
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.
The researchers also state finding small tumors along the mummy's pelvis and spine in the lumbar region.
Last year, Science Magazine reported that in the past researchers have had a hard time detecting cancer in deceased beings. This was before CT scanners were more widely used.
At the time, Science also reported Albert Zink, a biological anthropologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman, as noting that environmental factors cannot be ruled out completely because carcinogenic materials, such as soot and bitumen, were prevalent during that time.