Researchers who made the discovery say that the increase is too high, and consistent, to be blamed on the usual excuse of better diagnosis. Instead, changes in our lifestyle, diet and 'exposure to a variety of agents' are the most likely causes.
The researchers tracked the cancer rates in children, aged below 14 years, in 15 European countries from 1978 to 1997. In 1978, just 120 children per million were developing cancer, but, in 1997, the rate had increased to 141 cases per million.
The rate increased by an average of 1.1 per cent each year. The trend was similar across every country and across every type of cancer, with leukaemia being by far and away the most common.
Of course, it could also be down to the enormous successes seen in medical advance, the researchers surmise. Because of the wonders of medicine, women with poor genes were surviving and passing on their weak genes to their offspring.
(Source: European Journal of Cancer, 2006; 42: 1961).
E-news broadcast 7 September 2006 No.290 [Subscribe]