September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in the Philippines.
During this special month we are encouraged to know more about cancers or malignancies in children aged zero to 19.
We are also encouraged to consider reaching out to children cancer victims and their families and support groups or to contribute to fund campaigns. Childhood cancers may be rare but they are a leading cause of disease-related deaths in this age group.
Cancers in children are often difficult to detect or diagnosis is delayed because the signs and symptoms are slow in onset and often not directly related to the organ system affected, that is, the signs and symptoms are often not specific.
The most common malignancies in children are those of the blood (leukemias), cancers of the brain and other central nervous system tumors like neuroblastoma, lymph nodes (lymphomas), retina, kidneys, bone and soft tissues and the reproductive organs and germ cell sites.
Genes control the way body cells function, divide, and grow. Cancer is caused by changes or mutations in genes that lead to uncontrolled cell growth and eventually cancer. These changes occur due to errors when cells divide, due to damage brought about by toxic substances in the environment or the genetic variants and changes are inherited.
These are some general tips and information that may help in reducing the risk of cancer among children:
•Avoid exposing them to carcinogens like tobacco smoke which has been associated with several cancers both in adults and in children. It has been associated with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and other childhood malignancies.
•Limit sun exposure. Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight is a cause of skin cancer.
Vaccination against hepatitis B. Hepatitis B infection can lead to cancer of the liver.
•Avoid or limit exposure to household pesticides. Studies of childhood brain tumors and cancer have suggested associations with exposure to pesticides in and around the home and maternal consumption of cured meats
• Some chemical disinfectants when used frequently can cause harm. There are sites which advise us to use vinegar, baking soda, and simpler home remedies in cleaning our homes. Check labels of commercial disinfectants.
• Use bottle or food grade containers instead of plastic or Styrofoam.
• Modern inventions such as synthetic scents in air fresheners, scented candles, laundry products may be detrimental to a child’s health. Fragrance chemicals in fabric softeners may be absorbed by a child’s skin or inhaled. There are studies which show that the chemical used may be linked to malignancies.
• Encourage physical activity to prevent obesity which is considered a risk factor for cancer.
• On food preparation, it is recommended that we choose methods of cooking that preserve food nutrients better. A balanced diet that contains all the essential and basic components be served.
• Regular check-up with a physician is recommended.