Cancer is no longer restricted to adults alone. In recent years, the instances of childhood cancer has been on the rise. But, what could be the reason behind this? A look.
By Ekta Chawla
Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. It is a condition where the body’s cells begin to divide and spread non-stop to other tissues. It affects the healthy tissues and nearby organs. Now, it is on an alarming rise even with kids. The challenging part is that we are yet to seek definite answers to the causes of cancer in kids.
Many scientists say cancer is a natural phenomenon and no outside force can cause it. Some random events that happen inside a cell cause childhood cancer. Some children inherit DNA changes (mutations) from their parents which increase the risk of cancer. These changes are present in every cell of the child’s body which pose a threat to causing cancer in kids. These are genetic mutations. But, most childhood cancers are not caused by inherent DNA changes. They start in early childhood or maybe, even before birth or may even occur at any time during the child’s life. These are acquired mutations.
The Indian Council for Medical Research says that cancer in children constitutes 5.5 per cent of total cancer cases in India. This percentage has doubled from 2.5 per cent ten years ago. A disturbing reality is that only around 1 in 10 of the childhood cancer cases receive complete therapy. As a consequence, while cure rates for common childhood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia are over 80 per cent in the developed world in India, they have remained abysmally low at around 30 per cent.
The Indian Cancer Society has listed out facts about cancer in children:
1. Childhood cancer is curable if diagnosed early.
2. It is not infectious and does not spread from one child to another.
3. Only 3 per cent of all cancers in adults occur in children; secondly, they are fast growing. But at the same time they are very sensitive to chemotherapy treatment; thus, cure is a very realistic goal.
4. It is important to maintain treatment discipline
5. Extra care regarding hygiene at home and a balanced nutrition.
6. On the completion of cancer treatment, the child is normal like any other child.
There is a great awareness about causes for cancer in adults. We could attribute them to major lifestyle-related risks such as obesity, unhealthy diet and eating habits, lack of physical exercise, junk food containing preservatives, smoking, consumption of alcohol and most importantly “stress”.
However, these factors could take several years to cause cancer in kids. Also, there are no proven studies to show that they have a major impact in causing cancer in kids. Scientists are trying to achieve a breakthrough in this field by linking childhood cancer to be caused by environmental factors such as radiation exposure, pollution and exposure to smoking by adults.
Cancer in children can be a difficult time not only for the patient but the parents. This video provides a glimpse into the world of childhood cancer.
A study by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Cancer Research Institute in Kolkata has linked an alarming rise in cancer in kids to environmental pollution and the depleting ozone layer. Dr. Gauri Kapoor, head of Paediatrics at Delhi’s Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre says that increase in industrialization and technological advancements are the major cause for an alarming increase of Cancer cases globally. In India out of 8,00,000 cases diagnosed annually, about 50,000 are childhood cancers. Tobacco habit among the teenagers is also on the rise. Children from the lower socio-economic background are more prone to exposure and thus, on the risk of contracting the disease. The ratio of childhood cancer in boys is 14:1,00,000 to girls 9:1,00,000.
Having listed out the facts and figures relating to Cancer, here are a few simple tips that could help in lowering the risk of cancer in kids and in many cases preventing it too:
The author is the founder of Confused Parent, which is a forum where parents connect with top parent bloggers, doctors and child specialists.
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