Cancer : A Great Chance That All Of Us Know Someone Who Has Been Affected By Cancer

Cancer : A Great Chance That All Of Us Know Someone Who Has Been Affected By Cancer

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There is a great chance that all of us know someone who has been affected by cancer. Cancer is a disease that has often been thought of as modern, which in a way makes sense, because the rates of cancer have been seemingly increasing as the years pass. However, we don 't often think of it being a disease that affected our ancestors. With the presence of both benign and malignant tumors found in hominins, we see that cancer has been with humans and our ancestors for a long time and it is not just a recent phenomena. Presence of these tumors also highlights why it is important for people in different fields to be able to work together.
The first of my articles, “Earliest Hominin Cancer: 1.7-million-year-old Osteosarcoma from Swartkrans Cave, South Africa,” details the research on a hominin metatarsal bone. The authors describe the tumor that is found in the metatarsal bone and discuss the impact it can have on the way we perceive cancer in modern humans (Odes 2016, 3). Although the metatarsal was originally diagnosed with a benign growth, improvements in technology lead the authors to believe it was actually malignant (Odes 2016, 3).
My next article, “Osteogenic tumor in Australopithecus sediba: Earliest hominin evidence for neoplastic disease,” discusses the presence of a benign tumor in an Australopithecus sediba individual. Similarly to the first article, the authors present their research of the remains. They come to the conclusion that the tumor is benign and not malignant (Randolph-Quinney 2016, 4). The authors also discuss other instances of hominin tumors, including the metatarsal bone from the first article (Randolph-Quinney 2016, 5).
While all three articles touch on the scarcity of tumor instances in the archa...

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...tors who can distinguish between different hominin species. To me, this is important because it highlights the necessity of interdisciplinary collaboration. Had it not been for the two disciplines working together, these articles probably would not exist.
I myself had never really thought of our ancestors as having cancer. Of course I knew that humans get cancer and other animals get cancer, but I had never entertained the thought of human ancestors having to deal with cancer. Despite this, however, I did believe that one of the reasons for the increased instances of cancer was our longer life expectancy. All too often on social media I see people being alarmed at the increases in the diagnosis of cancer, and while it is true that modern environmental factors can play a part in cancer, as Odes described it, “the capacity for malignancy is ancient (Odes 2016, 4).

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