A study published on Thursday indicated that an analysis of the remains of a 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy revealed that she may have suffered nasopharyngeal cancer.
A multidisciplinary group of academics from the University of Warsaw examined the mummy skeleton, which is kept at the National Museum in Poland’s capital, Warsaw.
The mummy, which was brought to Poland in the nineteenth century, has belonged to the University of Warsaw since 1917, and is housed in the national museum’s ancient art gallery. Prior investigation on the mummies revealed that the mother was pregnant.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is the most common cancer, most commonly originating in the postero-lateral nasopharynx or pharyngeal recess (fossa of Rosenmüller).
The study, led by the Warsaw Mummy Project and the Department of Oncology at the Medical University of Warsaw, indicates the possibility of tumor changes in the bones, whilst facial changes to the nasopharyngeal bones are not typical of the mummification process.
Prof. Rafał Stec, from the university’s Department of Oncology, estimated a high probability of the woman dying from cancer due to her young age and the lack of other potential causes of death discovered.
“First, we have unusual changes in the nasopharyngeal bones,” which is not typically found in mummified carcasses, and the only certain diagnosis is possible after a histopathological examination.
Second, radiologists’ opinions based on computed tomography indicate the probability of tumor changes in the bones.”
Carcinoma was common in ancient Egypt, and there are several known examples of nasopharyngeal cancer.
The researchers intend to collect tissue samples for comparison with samples from other Egyptian mummies kept in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The researchers also seek to determine if the cancer was caused by a viral infection, such as HPV, or by a genetic predisposition. The study will also expand the knowledge of cancer evolution, contributing to new methods of diagnostics and treatment. Their findings were published in Science in Poland.