Most people tend to associate cancer with lifestyle factors that contribute to a higher cancer risk later on in life. In the case of childhood cancers, however, the causes seem to be related to inherited genetic defects and early genetic mutations that take place in cell divisions that occur during fetal development or the first few years of life . Understanding the seemingly random pattern behind the development of childhood cancers can be helpful for parents and families, because cancer diagnoses are often accompanied by feelings of guilt. This article will take a closer look at the risks and causes of childhood cancer so that you are able to better understand your child’s disease and face the treatment process.
Sometimes, childhood cancers may be caused by inherited genetic mutations from one or both parents. In some cases, parents may not even be aware of the DNA changes they are passing on to their children, because they are only identifiable through genetic testing. Still, it is important to remember that inherited genetic abnormalities only account for a small handful of childhood cancers. It is much more likely that the DNA changes are random and take place before the child is even born.
Acquired Genetic Mutation
When DNA mutations are not inherited, they are called acquired mutations, and they tend to happen very early in a child’s life, maybe even in gestation. During this period, cells are dividing at a rapid rate, and errors may occur, causing genetic mutation. From the point of mutation onward, all cells that come from that mutated cell will have changes to its DNA. Unfortunately, the likelihood for acquired mutations is very unpredictable.
Research has been conducted to explore environmental causes for childhood cancer, but these seem to be rarely, if at all, involved in the risk. Radiation exposure is the most commonly linked environmental factor with childhood cancers, though most of these cancers still appear to have no outside causes.
Sunrise Children’s Hospital can offer hope following a diagnosis of childhood cancer with the only dedicated pediatric oncology unit in the state of Nevada. You can explore our oncology services on our website or reach us through our Consult-A-Nurse healthcare referral line at (702) 731-5437.