University of Central Lancashire 
University of Central Lancashire 

Scientists Find the Earliest Human Cancer in a 1.7-Million-Year-Old Toe

University of Central Lancashire 
University of Central Lancashire 

While scanning prehistoric human fossils found near Johannesburg at the Swartkrans National Heritage Site, a team of researchers from the Universities of Central Lancashire and Witwatersrand discovered what they now believe to be the oldest evidence of cancer ever found in a human ancestor. According to a study in the South African Journal of Science, the 1.7-million-year-old cancer was found inside the fossilized toe of a hominid. 

Prior to this discovery, the oldest known evidence of hominin cancer dated back to around 3000 BCE. In an interview with The TelegraphCentral Lancashire biological and forensic anthropology expert Patrick Randolph-Quinney said that the researchers noticed that the inside of the fossil was opaque when it should have been hollow. They examined the fossil using micro-focus X-ray computed tomography and then compared it to the biopsies of cancer patients. They identified the growth as an osteosarcoma, a rare type of cancer that starts in bone. Osteosarcomas are usually found around the knee or in the long bones of the arms or legs.

The researchers say that bone destruction is rare, so they're not sure whether or not the tumor was fatal. "We don’t know whether it was the cancer that killed him or something else," Randolph-Quinney said. "It would have certainly affected his mobility, so it’s just as likely he was killed by a saber-toothed tiger."

The age of the tumor suggests that the origin of cancer is more complicated than previously thought. "Whilst most modern human malignancies are thought to be caused by environmental agents of a chemical nature, the evidence for this is not entirely conclusive," the researchers write [PDF]. "The expression of malignant osteosarcoma in the Swartkrans SK 7923 specimen indicates that whilst the explosion of malignancy incidence is clearly correlated with the hazards of the modern world and increased life expectancy, primary bone tumors evidently occurred throughout history."

[h/t Telegraph]

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97 Percent of Us Are Washing Our Hands All Wrong
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Most of us know the importance of washing our hands, but we're still pretty clueless when it comes to washing them the right way. As CNN reports, we fall short of washing our hands effectively 97 percent of the time.

That number comes from a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that looked at 383 participants in a test-kitchen environment. When they were told to wash their hands, the vast majority of subjects walked away from the sink after less than 20 seconds—the minimum hand-washing time recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of them also failed to dry their hands with a clean towel.

The researchers had participants cooking and handling raw meats. Because they didn't wash their hands properly, volunteers were spreading potentially dangerous germs to spice jars 48 percent of the time, contaminating refrigerator handles 11 percent of the time, and doing the same to salads 5 percent of the time.

People who don't wash their hands the correct way risk spreading harmful microbes to everything they touch, making themselves and those they live with more susceptible to certain infections like gastrointestinal illness and respiratory infections. Luckily, the proper hand-washing protocol isn't that complicated: The biggest change most of us need to make is investing more time.

According to the CDC, you need to rub your hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds to get rid of harmful bacteria. A helpful trick is to sing "Happy Birthday" twice as you wash—once you're finished, you should have passed the 20-second mark. And if your bathroom or kitchen doesn't have a clean towel to dry your hands with, let them air-dry. 

[h/t CNN]

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This Mysterious Condition Makes People Think Bugs Are Crawling Under Their Skin
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After seeing a spider or beetle scurry past you, it’s normal to get a creepy-crawly feeling, even if you know there’s nothing on you. For many people, though, the persistent sensation of phantom insects or parasites crawling underneath their skin—known as formication—is very real, Newsweek reports.

The condition is called delusional infestation, and although cases have been documented around the world, there hasn’t been enough research to determine if it’s a skin condition or psychological disorder. However, two new studies are attempting to shed light on the mysterious ailment that can cause symptoms such as itching, fatigue, joint pain, rashes or lesions, and difficulty concentrating. Some people have reported picking “fibers” out of their skin.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic and Denmark’s Aarhus University Hospital believe tens of thousands of Americans could have this condition, making it more common than previously thought. Their study, published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, found that people with the condition are often “resistant to medical evidence [showing that there is no infestation] and reluctant to pursue psychiatric evaluation.” Some patients, convinced that they have something crawling underneath their skin, self-harm with tweezers, bleach, or razor blades.

The researchers stopped short of calling it a psychological condition, but they did conclude that schizophrenia, dementia, other psychiatric conditions, and drug use can trigger delusional infestation in some cases, Science News reports.

Another new study, published in the journal Annals of the Academy of Medicine of Singapore [PDF], also seemed to favor a psychological explanation for the condition. The researchers noted that Chinese patients with the condition were treated with antipsychotics, and 10 of the 11 patients with isolated cases of delusional infestation (who had no other underlying disorders) improved with medication.

However, other researchers have drawn different conclusions, arguing that the condition is the skin's response to “tick-borne pathogens” typically associated with Lyme disease. The condition has gone by several names over the years, including Morgellons disease—a term coined in 2004 by a medical researcher and mother who says she found “fibers” on her young son’s skin after he kept scratching at the "bugs" he claimed were there. Regardless of the origin, what's clear is that the condition has very real consequences for those who suffer from it, and more research is needed to find suitable treatments.

[h/t Newsweek]

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