Why are our kids getting cancers; and why are these cancers so recurring? Australian researchers want to know.
It is estimated that cancer rates for children in Australia are still rising with a likely increase of seven percent by 2035. Unlike adults, there is also a very high rate of return years later of childhood cancers.
And scientists don’t know how to reduce the rates because so little of the cause of childhood cancers is understood. This is because, unlike adults, environmental and lifestyle factors seem to have little or no effect on the numbers.
Lifestyle choices and background are rarely part of the cause of cancer in children. Therefore, the focus for childhood cancers is almost exclusively on improving outcomes rather than prevention.
Queensland scientists leading the study said that there was therefore a need for more research to focus on what was causing cancer in children overall, which would go some way towards reducing the rates.
The increase in cancer rates in children was seen for almost all cancers, with brain and liver tumours rising slightly higher than others.
One notable exception was the rate of melanoma cases (skin cancer) in children under 15, which fell by eight per cent since the mid-1990s. This was one of the rare forms of cancer, though where lifestyle factors, that is, exposure to harmful sun-light without protection from ultraviolet light, can be reduced.
The researchers said in that case it was clear the concerted public health campaigns warning about prolonged sun exposure had an impact.The Australian figures are similar to ones recorded around the world, indicating there is not something specific to Australia which is causing the slow but steady rise in cases.