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Researchers Discover Cancer in a Dinosaur Fossil–a first

photo by Yinan Chen of a demetrodon via

This is a first for fossils– a cancer (specifically an osteosarcoma) located on the fibula of a Centrosaurus apertus. That probably doesn’t strike you as interesting, but I thought it was.

This was reported in ReachMD, based on a paper published in Lancet Oncology, which is unfortunately behind a paywall. The report does have a picture of the fossil, however.

The point is that cancer has never been found in a dinosaur before. This means that cancer is an ancient disease that has affected animals throughout the history of life on our planet. So it’s unlikely that anyone is ever going to find a way to eliminate cancer in humans.

Elephants, by the way, very rarely get cancer, despite their enormous size. They have evolved genetic mechanisms that detect cancer cells early and eliminate them before they have a chance to cause trouble. So maybe, just maybe, it might be possible to develop a genetic way to reduce (but not eliminate) cancer in future human populations. I’m just saying.

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