We don't feel comfortable talking about Cancer at all. But we live with the fact that more than 20 lakh people suffering from Cancer and about 75,000 kids getting cancer every year. While causes of childhood cancer are not definitely known, there are several factors that increase the risk of childhood cancer. Dr Tanveer Ahmed, Consultant Pediatric Oncologist, HCG NMR Cancer Centre Hubli shares risk factors that can cause cancer in children and the steps that one can take to reduce the risk of cancer in children.
● Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions like Down’s Syndrome enhances the cancer risk among children. Those with Down Syndrome are 10 to 20 times more prone to Leukaemia compared to other children.
● Genetics: In case of retinoblastoma, a rare type of cancer, some children are born with a change or mutation of the retinoblastoma gene. This could be due to the inheritance from one of their parents or due to a change in the gene that took place in the early stages of the foetal development in the womb. Most children who get retinoblastoma are found to have this change in their genes.
● Issues with development in the womb: Certain cancer among babies begin right from the time they are inside their mother’s womb. When the baby is in its foetal stage and body parts like kidneys and eyes develop, due to some kind of error, certain cells which could have turned into developed cells to form a body part continue to remain immature. When these immature cells do not mature by themselves by the time the child is 3 to 4 years old, they develop into a cancerous tumour.
● Exposure to infections: Certain infections among children like Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) that causes glandular fever among teenagers could increase the risk of development of cancers like Hodgkin lymphoma and Burkitt’s Lymphoma.
Preventing childhood and adolescent cancer
Preventing childhood and adolescent cancer is a complex issue because the causes of cancer in children and adolescents are not fully understood. However, there are some things that can be done to reduce the risk of cancer in this population.
1. Encourage healthy lifestyles: Encouraging children and adolescents to eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, and engage in regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of cancer.
2. Avoid exposure to harmful substances: Children and adolescents should be protected from exposure to tobacco smoke, radiation, and other known carcinogens.
3. Immunize against certain viruses: Some viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV), can increase the risk of cancer. Vaccines are available that can help protect against these viruses and reduce the risk of cancer.
4. Promote sun safety: Excessive exposure to the sun can increase the risk of skin cancer. Encourage children and adolescents to use sunscreen and wear protective clothing when spending time in the sun.
5. Support cancer screening and early detection: Early detection of cancer through screening tests can significantly improve treatment outcomes. Encourage children and adolescents to undergo recommended cancer screening tests as appropriate.
It is also important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer in children and adolescents, and to seek medical attention if any concerning symptoms are present.
Recognising the signs and potential risk factors of childhood and adolescent cancer can greatly aid in the prevention and treatment of these types of cancer. By being aware of these signs and factors, it is possible to take steps to identify and address any potential issues as early as possible, which can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and management of the cancer. Consult a doctor to learn more about the management of childhood and adolescent cancer.
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