October 18, 2014

Ancient cancer?

Filed under: Public Health — acagle @ 3:58 pm

Ancient Siberian mummy had breast cancer and self-medicated with marijuana

team of Russian scientists has determined that the Siberian “ice maiden” likely died of breast cancer and used marijuana to treat the pain, The Siberian Times reports.

An investigation of the mummified, 2,400 year old remains of the young woman indicates that the young woman died of breast cancer, and the researchers speculate that the marijuana found in her burial chamber was used to mitigate the pain it caused.

“During the imaging of mammary glands, we paid attention to their asymmetric structure and the varying asymmetry of the MR signal,” Andrey Letyagin, a physiology professor from the Russian Academy of Medical Science, told the Times. “We are dealing with a primary tumour in the right breast and right axial lymph nodes with metastases.”

Kind of a confusing article. They say she died of breast cancer, but also had quite a few apparently very traumatic injuries and also a bone infection. So maybe she was just one sick individual who happened to take a bad fall before succumbing to all the other things? At any rate, they seem pretty certain of the cancer diagnosis so at least we have a very old mummy with cancer.

Link via PRO.


  1. Very interesting, thank you!
    At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberian_Ice_Maiden I found more about this mummy, though didn’t read further links on that page yet. No marijuana here, but koriander. Do you know of medical use of the latter in the past?

    Comment by Toos — October 20, 2014 @ 3:05 pm

  2. Nope.

    Comment by acagle — October 20, 2014 @ 3:42 pm

  3. With pictures of the MRI scans [and more!]: http://siberiantimes.com/science/casestudy/features/iconic-2500-year-old-siberian-princess-died-from-breast-cancer-reveals-unique-mri-scan/ . Rather long read, but worth it [and besides it solves the koriander-cannabis-question too].

    Comment by Toos — October 21, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

  4. Good link! That one at least mentions the pre-mortem sequence of probable events. I vaguely recall watching a television program years ago about the discovery of an Ukok woman in a tomb that had abundant tattoos. I wonder if this is the same one.

    Comment by acagle — October 21, 2014 @ 6:52 pm

  5. Could be? The Wiki-link at 1. here, says there was a BBC documentary (1997) [and links to the transcript of it, but that hasn't any pictures, only text]. Though Pazyryk Burials on Wiki gives a link to Winnie Allingham’s “The frozen horseman of Siberia” on Discovery that has vanished from there. So perhaps you saw this one and could it have been another Pazyryk icemummy? The Ukok one doesn’t have that many tattoos as Pazyryks dying at older age [as I understood from the further readings].
    Nice to *hear* you appreciating the link at 3. :) . Yes, it was the most informative one about cause of death, much more than the Wiki-items I got it from.

    Comment by Toos — October 22, 2014 @ 10:26 am

  6. :( sorry!!!, it has to be THIS Ukok one [that doesn't have that many tattoos]! Because there are other Pazyryk icemummies found there too [though not in that same grave], male ánd female.

    Comment by Toos — October 22, 2014 @ 10:46 am

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