In two papers published in the South African Journal of Science, researchers say they’ve found the oldest definitive evidence of malignancy in a hominid.
The first is an osteosarcoma, a type of agressive malignant bone tumor, found on a 1.7 million year old hominid, SK 7923, from the cave site Swartkrans in South Africa. Osteosarcomas affect young individuals. They have little to do with environmental influences. Since it is a metatarsal, its hard to known exactly what species it came from, what we do know is that it did come from a hominid.
In a related paper published in the same journal, a collaborating team of scientists describe the oldest tumor ever found in the human fossil record—a benign tumor found in the vertebrae of an Australopithecus sediba child.