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Colon cancer kills about 700,000 people a year worldwide. The disease can be treated successfully when found early. However, scientists have also identified genetic mutations, or changes in the gene’s structure connected to the disease. Researchers at Tel Aviv University are studying the history of colon cancer. Microbiologist Rina Arbesfeld is with the university. She wanted to know how genetic mutations and developing colon cancer are related. To help her research, Arbesfeld turned to a surprising source: Hungarian mummies, discovered in 1994 in a church repair project. These dead bodies rested in a cool, dry climate for more than two and half centuries. Their fluids and organs were found intact. This means the mummies have tissue that could be tested for evidence of disease. Arbesfeld and her team separated genetic samples from 22 mummies. Then they looked at patterns in the genetic material to search for mutations. She says that after many tries, her team found one specific mutation in a gene called APC. This gene is important. Arbesfeld explains that the APC gene is the “guard” for the development of cancer. This information led Arbesfeld to a theory. She says if our ancestors with this genetic mutation for colon cancer lived long enough, they would have developed the disease. Arbesfeld says her next step is to test genetic samples from other sources. She says understanding the genetic past of a disease can help handle its future.