Can childhood cancers be prevented?

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Can childhood cancers be prevented?

A childhood cancer, as I said, is a very, very rare event. And, at this point in time, we have very little data to say there are specific causes of childhood cancer. When we look to extensive in what's called epidemiological studies, we look at what children have been exposed to. What events have occurred in their life, even when they were developing in the womb. It's very, very hard to find really hard relationships. With the very, very few exceptions. We do know there are rare inherited types of cancer. But, they are actually quite rare. And, not very common in the cause of cancer. There are exposures to things like radiation, or certain chemicals. Certain very specific chemicals. And I don't mean just transit exposure. But, actually, extensive exposure that can be linked to certain kinds of cancer. But, for vast majority of childhood cancers, we do not have an obvious association in the environment with them. If you think about it, childhood cancer occurs in a young person. They had very little time to be exposed to things. When you go to adults, of course, there you find environmental linkages. Such as, smoking with lung cancer, with bladder cancer or a diet in intestinal cancer. And, they are the persons who've been exposed to them for years and years. So, there's a real logical reason why environment may be important. In children, we haven't found that strong linkage in general. Having said that, there's a lot of research that's still being done to try to look at various causes of cancers. And, we may learn something new in some of the molecular studies we are doing now. They could point us to a different pathway. But, right now, I don't think we can say that we can identify a cause, or a risk factor, for most childhood cancer patients. The one thing I think that is important is I believe parents should have their children seen by their pediatrician for an annual visit. Because, that pediatrician might pick something subtle, that they might not have noticed, that could be important in leading to a diagnosis of cancer or other diseases. So, I'm a strong believer in parents having their kids seen annually by their pediatrician. To be sure they don't miss anything.

Watch Video: Can childhood cancers be prevented? by Stuart E. Siegel, MD, ...


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Stuart E. Siegel, MD

Director, Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Before recently shifting his focus to international medicine, Stuart Siegel, MD, was Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology for 35 years and the founding director of the the Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Professor and Head of the Division of Hematology-Oncology Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California. He remains a leader in supportive care and research in pediatric oncology, with a special focus on neuroblastoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Ewing Sarcoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors. From developing the first pediatric protective environment in 1971 for children undergoing intensive chemotherapy, to pioneering current efforts to develop academic and clinical care programs nationally and locally for adolescents and young adults with cancer, Dr. Siegel’s contributions have revolutionized the field of pediatric oncology. Dr. Siegel has been honored for his work by the American Cancer Society, Children Foundation, the Cancer Foundation, the Chase Foundation, Padres Contra El Cancer, the Israel Cancer Research Fund and Ronald McDonald House Charities, where he is a member of the National Board, and has consistently been listed among the nation’s top doctors in such publications asAmerica’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors in America. He is a father of one son, Joshua; grandfather of David and Elijah; and lives in Pacific Palisades with his wife of seven years.

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