Infections May Cause Childhood Brain Cancers-Study
British scientists have found what they believe is further evidence that viral or bacterial infections cause childhood brain tumors.
Apr 02 12:10 PM ET
Posted on: 04/03/2002
Tue Apr 2,12:10 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) -
British scientists have found what they
believe is further evidence that viral or bacterial infections
cause childhood brain tumors.
In research reported in the British Journal of Cancer on
Tuesday, Professor Jillian Birch and colleagues at the
University of Manchester said they discovered that childhood
brain tumors occur in clusters over short periods of time,
suggesting they may be influenced by infections.
"Our results indicate that environmental factors are
involved in causing brain tumors in children and the most
likely explanation for the pattern we have seen is that one or
more types of infections are responsible," Birch said.
A so-called double whammy, combining biological and genetic
causes, is thought necessary for some cancers to develop.
Birch and his team analyzed brain cancer in children from
northwest England between 1954 and 1998, finding those born in
the autumn and winter had a higher risk of developing two types
of brain tumors, called astrocytoma and ependymoma.
They also discovered that in certain years children living
near each other were more likely to be diagnosed with a brain
tumor, a pattern scientists call space-time clustering.
Diseases linked to more constant environmental causes
usually produce clusters over longer periods of time than those
linked to space-time clustering.
"The fact that the space-time clusters and the seasonal
pattern in births are restricted to particular types of
childhood brain tumors adds weight to our findings and will
allow us to focus our future research on these cases," Birch
added in a statement.
Sir Paul Nurse, a director general of the charity Cancer
Research UK, which funded the study, said the results back the
theory that infections play a role in a number of cancers.
"These initial findings aren't conclusive and we need more
evidence to support them, but if an infection is playing a
role, this might lead to new ideas for preventing and treating
this important disease."
Childhood cancers are rare and survival rates have
improved. About 1,500 children in Britain and 8,400 in the
United States develop cancer each year. Leukemia is the most
common type of childhood cancer, followed by brain and spinal
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