A probable primary malignant bone tumor in a pre-Columbian human humerus from Cerro Brujo, Bocas del Toro, Panamá
International journal of paleopathology | 21 May 2018
NE Smith-Guzmán, JA Toretsky, J Tsai and RG Cooke
We present a rare case of primary bone cancer principally affecting the right humerus of a skeleton from the pre-Columbian site of Cerro Brujo (1265-1380 CE) in Bocas del Toro, on the Caribbean coast of Panamá, excavated in the early 1970s. The humerus contains a dense, calcified sclerotic mass with associated lytic lesions localized around the midshaft of the diaphysis. Evidence of systemic inflammation and anemia, likely caused by the cancer, are visible in the form of severe porotic hyperostosis of the cranial vault and bilateral periosteal reactions in the tibiae. Differential diagnosis and future probes of the tumor are discussed. A tooth from the individual yielded a radiocarbon date 150 years later than those of the domestic occupation at the site. Given that it was the only formal burial recovered from the site, and as the individual had such a visible, painful, and rare pathology, this likely constitutes a ritual burial.
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