What Causes Childhood Cancer? 201102headline.jpgCancer is one of the leading causes of death by disease among children between birth and age 15.  Although survival rates for children with cancer have significantly improved over the past 30 years, thanks to advances in cancer research and treatment, the incidence rate is actually continuing to climb.

Many types of childhood cancer occur or begin in the stem cells, which are simple cells capable of producing other types of specialized cells that the body needs. A sporadic (occurring by chance) cellular change or mutation is usually a root cause of childhood cancer.

Some possible environmental causes of childhood cancers include:

• early-life exposure to infectious agents;
• parental, fetal, or childhood exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, solvents, or other household chemicals;
• parental occupational exposure to radiation or chemicals;
• parental medical conditions during pregnancy or before conception;
• maternal diet during pregnancy;
• early postnatal feeding patterns and diet;
• maternal reproductive history.

But these risk factors are very difficult to pin down, partly because cancer in children is rare and because it is difficult to identify past exposure levels in children, particularly during pregnancy or even prior to conception. In addition, each of the distinctive types of childhood cancer develops differently-with a potentially wide variety of causes and a unique clinical course in terms of age, race, gender, and many other factors.

Although there is still no confirmed answer to the causes of childhood cancer, one important action that parents can take is to keep a close watch for any early warning signs of cancer in their children. The survival rate for childhood cancer is much higher than adult cancer, if diagnosed and treated on time. Please click here for AFCR's Childhood Cancer Detection Chart.