Slowly but steadily, more children are getting cancer, research finds

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By 2035, the rate of childhood cancer is predicted to reach 1060 cases per year.

Professor Youlden said childhood cancer cases account for about 0.6 per cent of all cases in Australia but any increase was a cause for concern.

“(Research) authors have suggested the diagnostic accuracy may have changed over time, the accuracy of how cancer is reported, » he said.

« o some of those things can have an impact on the rates.

“The fact is we just really don’t know what is contributing to childhood cancers because we don’t know the causes of it.”

Unlike adult cancers, lifestyle factors are rarely part of the cause of cancer in children, and from a medical perspective the focus for childhood cancers is almost exclusively on improving outcomes rather than prevention.

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For that reason, Professor Youlden said there was a need for more research to focus on what was causing cancer in children overall, which would go some way towards reducing the rate of new cases.

“What we were trying to do here is paint a picture of what childhood instances of cancer is likely to look like in the future,” he said.

“I think that the results highlight that a better understanding of the causes and risk factors for childhood cancer is really required before any action can be taken to reduce instances.”

The increase in cancer rates in children was seen for almost all cancers, with brain and liver tumours rising slightly higher than others.

One notable exception was the rate of melanoma cases in children under 15, which fell by eight per cent since the mid-1990s, considered a huge fall.

The researchers said in that case it was clear the concerted public health campaigns warning about prolonged sun exposure had an impact.

The Australian figures are similar to ones recorded around the world, indicating there is not something specific to Australia which is causing the slow but steady rise in cases.

The research has been published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

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