Pediatric Tumours: Importance of Preventive Measures

According to global cancer statistics, childhood cancers (cancers in children <18 yrs age) constitute 0.5-4.6% of all cancers and 1% of all cancer deaths. Leukemias, lymphomas (tumours of blood and lymphatics) and tumours of Central Nervous System are the major types of cancer in children.  International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) estimates 3 lakh annual cases and close to 80,000 childhood deaths due to cancers.

The alarming concern is, although five-year survival rates (this means out of 100 cancer affected children, the number of those living five years after diagnosis) tend to be close to 80% in developed countries, in developing countries it is somewhere around 10%.  Although there is a significant advancement in medical technology and treatment rates the inequity rates are mainly due to non-specific signs and symptoms of pediatric cancers, poor access and cancer diagnostic services close to the community. An additional challenge is the cost of the medical services after cancer suspicion that could push the family below the poverty line due to out of pocket expenditure on child’s treatment and care. The saying “Prevention is better than cure” holds true even with pediatric cancers. World Health Organization (WHO) commemorates 15th February every year as International Childhood Cancer Day to create awareness about the topic. Although preventing pediatric cancers is difficult as most would have been acquired through genetic or radiation exposure, let’s have a look at common risk factors by the chronology of susceptibility:-

  1. Prenatal period – Older parental age, radiological exposure or radiation exposure in utero, genetic syndromes, drug exposure (diethylstilbesterol- a hormone) during pregnancy, chromosomal abnormalities
  2. Infancy – chemical exposures (pesticides in food, Carcinogen exposure through the environment), viral infections
  3. Childhood – indoor air pollution (parental smoking-second hand smoke), mobile phones, obesity, infections
  4. Adolescence – early menarche


  • Exclusive Breastfeeding for 6 months
  • Prenatal folic acid consumption
  • Childhood physical activity
  • Eating healthy – fruits, green leafy vegetables, salt and sugar restriction in diet


  1. Dawn M. Holman, Natasha D. Buchanan and on behalf of the Cancer Prevention During Early Life Expert Group Opportunities During Early Life for Cancer Prevention: Highlights From a Series of Virtual Meetings With Experts. Pediatrics 2016; 138; S3. Available from:


Dr Sudhir Prabhu H

Associate Professor, Community Medicine

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