Most people probably don’t think about cancer when looking at pictures of dinosaurs, or impressive skeletons in museums. But they may have had all kinds of tumours (like birds* do), although bone tumours are the most likely kind (and probably the only one) that could be found in the fossil record.
There are a number of fossilised dinosaur bones that show signs of tumours, but most seem benign. Recently a team of researchers and cancer specialists analysed** a fibula (a long bone in a lower hind leg) of an herbivorous dinosaur – Centrosaurus apertus – that shows signs of abnormal growth. Their diagnosis was clear: an advanced cancer – osteosarcoma.
As the researchers say “The extensive invasion of the cancer throughout the bone suggests that it persisted for a substantial period of the animal’s life and might have invaded other body systems. A similarly advanced osteosarcoma in a human patient, left untreated, would certainly be fatal”.
However, it seems that this animal was not killed by cancer but by a costal flood.
* the only living dinosaurs (but that’s a different story – let me know if you would like to hear it)
** using microscopy and high-resolution X-ray CT scans.
Ilustration: Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com) – own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19459817
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