Children, Cancer, and the Environment
Retinoblastoma is a cancer of the eye. This cancer is thought to be caused at least in part by characteristics that a child inherits from a parent (1). Such a genetic component appears to be related to 40 to 50% of cases of this kind of cancer (2).
One researcher has suggested that some children inherit an altered version of a gene that suppresses the formation of tumors. Then, a second change in a second coy of the gene can lead to cancer. Children who get the disease at the youngest ages probably have these traits. Other children may get the disease after multiple mutations (3).
A large study of cancer in the children of farmers in Norway found that children of parents who worked in horticulture or with pesticides led to increased risk for all cancers for children from 0 to four years of age and eye cancer (4).
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1. Malkin D. Age-specific oncogenesis: the genetics of cancer susceptibility. Environmental Health Perspectives 1995; 103 Supplement 6:37-9.
2. Campleman SL, Schlag R, Perkins CL, Glazer E, Kwong SL, Cress RD, Wright WE. Childhood Cancer in California 1988-94. Sacramento: California Department of Health Services, 1999. http://www.ccral.org
3. Shannon K. Genetic predispositions and childhood cancer. Environmental Health Perspectives 1998; 106 Supplement 3:801-6.
4. Kristensen P, Andersen A, Irgens LM, Bye AS, Sundheim L. Cancer in offspring of parents engaged in agricultural activities in Norway: incidence and risk factors in the farm environment. International Journal of Cancer 1996; 65:39-50.
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