1. ITV Report

Pollution, gadgets and burnt food linked to 40% surge in childhood cancer rates

Rocketing pollution, pesticide use and gadgets have caused childhood cancer rates to soar by 40 per cent in less than two decades, according to new analysis.

Childhood cancer rates have soared Credit: Reuters

Compared to 1998, there are 1,300 more cancer diagnoses in children and young people below the age of 25 every year.

The surge is partly linked to population growth, but the scientific director for the Children with Cancer UK charity said lifestyle and environmental factors were also playing a part.

A comparison study using figures from the Office for National Statistics found:

  • Cases of colon cancer in children are up by 200%
  • Thyroid cancer diagnoses have more than doubled
  • Ovarian cancer is up 70%
  • Cervical cancer is up 50%

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Prof Denis Henshaw said burnt barbecue food, the electric fields of power lines, and hairdryers were contributors to the rise, as well as a pregnant mother's diet and working shifts.

These significant rises in cancer cases cannot be explained by improvements in cancer diagnosis or registration alone - lifestyle and environmental causal factors must be considered.

We were shocked to see the figures, and it's the modern lifestyle I'm afraid. Many items on the list of environmental causes are now known to be carcinogenic, such as air pollution and pesticides and solvents.

What's worrying is it is very hard to avoid a lot of these things. How can you avoid air pollution? It sometimes feels like we are fighting a losing battle.

– Prof Denis Henshaw, Children with Cancer UK

The charity is now calling on the government and the medical community to invest money in precision medicine - or targeted therapies - to ensure all children have access by 2020.