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The modern plagues of obesity, physical inactivity and processed food have been definitively established as modern causes of colon cancer. Researchers have also associated a mutation of the Adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene with the deadly disease. But which came first? Is colon cancer a lethal product of modernity? Or is this an open-and-shut case of DNA gone awry?
A new Tel Aviv University discovery suggests that a genetic predisposition to colorectal cancer preceded the advent of modernization — and, in a bizarre twist, they discovered this evidence in an 18th-century Hungarian mummy.
In 1995, more than 265 mummies were excavated from sealed crypts in the Dominican church in Vác, Hungary. These crypts were used continuously from 1731 to 1838 for the burial of middle-class families and clerics and provided ideal conditions for the natural mummification of corpses — low temperatures, constant ventilation and low humidity. Some 70% of the bodies found had been completely or partially mummified.
The preservation of the tissue samples and abundant archival information about the individuals buried in the crypts attracted researchers from around the world, all of whom where interested in conducting their own morphological and genetic studies of the human remains.
“Colorectal cancer is among the most common health hazards of modern times,” Dr. Rosin-Arbesfeld explains. “And it has a proven genetic background. We wanted to discover whether people in the past carried the APC mutation — how common it was, and whether it was the same mutation known to us today.
Read full, original post: Mutated gene associated with colon cancer discovered in 18th-century Hungarian mummy