Research, Cancer: Childhood cancer rising in Europe, study finds
An EU-funded project has revealed that
the incidence of cancer among children and adolescents in
Europe - although still rare - has been rising steadily over
the past three decades.
Researchers at the International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC), based in France, found that cancer
in European children had risen by an average of 1% per year
and in adolescents by 1.5% during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
“Our results provide clear evidence of an increase…
and of an acceleration of this trend,” Dr Eva Steliarova-Foucher,
the project coordinator, explains. “However, cancer
at these ages remains a rare disease.”
Analysing the detailed historical data of more than 100 000
children with cancer from 19 European countries, Steliarova-Foucher’s
team also identified that survival rates had improved significantly
over the years, although more so in western than in eastern
The study, which was published in The Lancet, revealed
that leukaemia was the most common form of cancer in children
aged 14 or under, while lymphomas were most prominent in the
15-19 age group. The incidence of cancer among boys was ‘significantly
higher’ than among girls.
Common cause against childhood cancer
The reasons behind this increased rate of cancer are unclear.
Speculation, in the past, has centred around several possible
explanations, including better diagnosis, environmental factors,
higher mobility, or reductions in immunity due to increased
“We did not study the causes. We can only speculate
but thought exposure to infections could be a factor in leukaemia
and lymphoma, and changes in age of child-bearers could be
significant,” Dr Steliarova-Foucher was quoted as saying.
This is the first report that draws on the Union-funded Automated
Childhood Cancer Information System (ACCIS) which pools information
from some 80 population-based cancer registries in 35 countries.
“[This] shows the value of EU level co-operation on
important health issues like cancer,” Philip Tod, Commission
spokesman for health and consumer protection, told EurActiv.
“These findings will now help in the search for possible
risk factors and may, in the future, lead to effective prevention.”
Childhood cancer is one of the four priority diseases in the
EU’s Environment and Health Strategy and is a focus
of Union-funded research under the Sixth Framework Programme
Source: EU sources
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Environment and Health Strategy