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: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

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: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>