Linking environmental hazards to childhood cancer

There is an immediate need to discover and prevent childhood exposure to environmental toxicants that will lead to cancer in adulthood. Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental toxicants due to greater relative exposure, less developed metabolism, and more cell production, growth, and change.
Pediatric cancer is fundamentally different from adult cancer: the latency period is shorter and the genetic processes are more apparent. International concern is mounting over the increase in childhood cancer incidence, largely in leukemia and brain tumors, and particularly in children 0-5 years old.
Because there is no one specific cause for increases in leukemia, brain cancer, osteogenic sarcoma and testicular cancer in children, each of these cancers requires further investigation, particularly into environmental relationships. The following are specific research approaches that might be applied: (1) large biomarker-based case-control studies to evaluate suspect exposures (assessment of exposure is often the most overlooked aspect of such studies); (2) prospective longitudinal studies of children exposed to known or suspected carcinogens, including children with exposures in utero; (3) cancer susceptibility in children and the interaction between genetic alterations and environmental exposures in cancer etiology.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in 0-14 year olds in the US and the sixth most prevalent chronic disease of childhood (behind asthma, congenital heart disease, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and diabetes). Ionizing radiation and chemotherapies are currently the only external environmental substances clearly demonstrated to cause childhood leukemia. Other speculated agents include: electromagnetic fields (EMFs), radon, pesticides, solvents, diet, environmental tobacco smoke, alcohol, and infection. Additional research is underway to determine the potential importance of in utero and/or post natal exposures to toxicants such as pesticides, solvents, radiation, electromagnetic fields, indoor radon, food additives, and prescription medicines.

Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies