Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Infections are a major cause of childhood cancer, study suggests

13.12.2005


Results from a new study of childhood cancer statistics provide further evidence that common infections affecting mother and baby could play a key role in triggering certain types of the disease.



The research was led by Dr Richard McNally from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and funded by Cancer Research UK and the Christie Hospital Research Endowment Fund.

The team* analysed a register of cancer cases diagnosed in young children over a period of 45 years. They found that a pattern emerged where two types of cancer - leukaemia and brain tumours - repeatedly occurred at similar times and geographical locations.


This ‘space-time clustering’ of cases is a pattern typical of diseases caused by infection, adding weight to the theory that outbreaks of infectious viruses are a potential contributory cause of cancer. Diseases caused by more constant environmental factors produce clusters of cases in one place over a much longer time period.

However, the researchers stress that people cannot ‘catch cancer’ as the infection is only likely to lead to cancer in a very small number of individuals who are already genetically susceptible to the disease.

Dr McNally, who works in Newcastle University’s School of Clinical Medical Sciences (Child Health) said: “We found that place of birth was particularly significant, which suggests that an infection in the mother while she is carrying her baby, or in a child’s early years, could be a trigger factor for the cancer. These could be minor, common illnesses that are not even reported to the GP, such as a cold, mild flu or a respiratory virus.

“However, this would only lead to cancer in individuals who already carry mutant cells in their body. The virus would hit this mutant cell and cause a second mutation, prompting the onset of cancers like leukaemia or brain tumours.”

The findings, published in the European Journal of Cancer, may lead to better preventative measures for cancer and could result in better treatment.

Statistics for the research were taken from the Manchester Children’s Tumour Register, which recorded cases of all childhood cancers in 0-14 year-olds diagnosed between January 1954 and December 1998. It covers the areas of Southern Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, North West Derbyshire and North Cheshire.

The researchers carried out a sophisticated form of statistical analysis for the study, which is the first of its kind. They sought to establish where there was a pattern of certain types of cancers in relation to the time and place of childrens’ birth and the time and place of where children were living when diagnosed.

Most significant were the clusters of leukaemia and central nervous system tumours found around time and place of birth. In these clusters, there were eight per cent more cases of these cancers than could be explained by chance. Moreover, clusters of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and the brain tumour astrocytoma were also found around time and place of birth - here there were 13 per cent more cases than expected.

There are theories that suggest environmental influences, such as viral infections, are part of the cause of cancer, in addition to genetic susceptibility. This research provides further evidence that this may be the case.

Dr McNally, who also works in Newcastle University’s School of Population and Health Sciences, and who carried out the work while working at The University of Manchester with Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS Trust, added: “Our research is important but it only provides another piece in the jigsaw. We don’t yet know enough to be able to advise people on preventative measures. Still, it is important to stress that cases of cancer remain rare in children.”

Professor John Toy, Cancer Research UK’s medical director, said: “These findings provide more clues to a link between viruses and some types of childhood cancer, but we need more evidence before we can be sure. Reassuringly for mums, children who are introduced to day care or who are more socially active during their first year of life have been found to be at lower risk of childhood leukaemia. This may be because their immune systems have been strengthened by being exposed to a wide variety of infections at an early age.” (1)

*The research team comprised scientists from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, The University of Manchester/Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS Trust and Christie Hospital NHS Trust, and the University of Edinburgh.

1) Reference for the research mentioned in this quote: Day care in infancy and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia: findings from UK case-control study
Gilham, C et al. BMJ. 2005 Jun 4;330(7503); 1279-80

Claire Jordan | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Disarray in the brain
18.12.2017 | Universität zu Lübeck

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors

22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

Radioactivity from oil and gas wastewater persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments

22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent

22.01.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks Wissenschaft & Forschung
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>