Childhood Cancer Causes

Cancer is a term that can block anyone’s mind, and if they are someone from our friends or family, we feel devasted. But in the situation when we find out about our child in any stage of cancer it is more horrible than a nightmare.

We are in the state of knowing and gaining knowledge of the disease from every corner because nobody wants to see their child be in the state of fighting for their lives. This is the point we feel why us? Why my child? What to do next? What are the treatment options? So, without much thought, one must visit a skilled paediatric oncologist with whom one can discuss childhood cancer, childhood cancer causes, and childhood cancer treatment.

How their effects and side effects can hamper the child’s physical and mental growth in the near future.


When it comes to cancer, eating habits, lifestyle modifications, body weight, alcohol consumption, smoking habits or genetics etc could play a significant role in the cause of cancer. But when it comes to children no such causes could be taken into consideration other than genetics.

The exact cause of childhood cancers is not known yet. But about 5 % of all cancers in children are caused by an inherited mutation. (An abnormal change which can pass from parents to children)

Mostly in children also like adults the development of mutated genes results in uncontrolled cell growth and ultimately cancer. In adults, these mutations reflect the overall effect of ageing and long-term exposure to cancer-causing substances.

Probable childhood cancers causes could be divided into-

Medical conditions

  • Problem with development in the womb
  • Exposure to Infection
  • Previous cancer treatments


  • Exposure to radiation

Medical conditions

Certain conditions that can increase a child’s risk of developing cancers are due to the medical condition the child is in.

E.g., A child with Down syndrome is 10 to 20 times more likely to get leukaemia than a normal child. However, the incidence of Leukaemia is still very rare.


Mutated genes could be one reason for cancer in children. Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer; this is due to a change in the retinoblastoma gene also termed as RB1 gene. The reason is an inheritance from one of their parents, or because a change took place during the very early stage of its development. Most children with a change in the RB1 gene develop retinoblastoma. About 40 % of retinoblastoma have an inheritable type, which is usually bilateral.

Some other childhood cancers, such as Wilm’s tumour (kidney cancer in children), can also have a genetic link.

Problems with development in the womb

Some childhood cancers like Wilm’s tumours and retinoblastomas begin when the baby is in the womb. In this situation, several parts of the body such as kidneys and eyes have developed. But due to some mutation, some cells turned doesn’t mature, rather they remain immature.  

Usually, these immature cells get matured when the child is 3-4 years old. But if the growth stops it may turn into cancerous tumours.

Exposure to infections

EBV Virus or Epstein Barr virus is a common infection in young children. It usually has no symptoms. But it can affect teenagers and adults by showing symptoms like glandular fever. But this doesn’t mean the patient develops cancer. Once the infection has occurred the individual will remain the carrier of EBV for life, but the virus doesn’t cause any symptoms.

In rare cases, EBV can further cause other cancers like Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Burkitt’s lymphoma.

Many people who were once a carrier of EBV carry it throughout their lives. But there is nothing which can be done to prevent it.

Exposure to radiation

After chemotherapy, Radiotherapy is another important cancer treatment. The type of radiation called ionising radiation is used here. Children who underwent radiotherapy are slightly at a higher risk of developing cancer due to this factor.

But the risk is comparatively low as compared to the risk to their health.

Radon gas is a natural radioactive gas and also a type of ionising radiation. It is found in the air at a very low level but can sometimes go up to high concentration indoors. As its natural gas protecting oneself from its exposure is difficult. Studies show that there can be some link between indoor levels of radon and the risk of childhood leukaemia.

Previous cancer treatments

One common risk with previous treatment involves chemotherapy, which can increase the risk of cancers such as acute leukaemia but the rate of showing the effects are many years after the treatment is over. It is mostly seen in adults.

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