Ten times as many adults in medieval Britain had cancer at the time of their death than was previously thought, a pioneering study using x-rays and CT scans suggests.

Even before the introduction of tumour-inducing chemicals from industry and tobacco, the prevalence of cancer at death was about 9-14 per cent, according to analysis of bones from the period. Prior research into historic cancer rates using the archaeological record was limited to examining the exterior of bones for lesions. It suggested that cancer was rare, affecting less than 1 per cent of the population.

A team led by the University of Cambridge coupled visual inspection with radiological imaging for the first time to study 143 skeletons dating from the 6th to the 16th century. The

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