Experts have found that childhood leukemia can be triggered by common insects.
British scientists have discovered that some babies develop precancerous cells in the womb.
But only children who come into contact with a second “hit” from common illnesses like the flu — which trigger the disease — will go on to develop cancer.
The research, published in the journal leukemia shows that acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) could be preventable if children’s immune systems are “primed” at a very young age, experts said.
This can be accomplished by exposing them to germs through breastfeeding, vaginal birth, or playing with dirty toys and other children.
Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London discovered the link between cancer, the uterus and viruses by studying twins in cases where only one initially developed ALL.
Identical twins are about 15-25 percent more likely to develop ALL if a sibling already has the disease, while less than 1 percent of dizygotic twins or other siblings will develop the disease.
Researchers followed twins for 15 years and discovered that the higher risk only applied to couples who shared the same placenta.
It suggests that while babies develop a risk of cancer in the womb from the blood that passes through the placenta, the disease is not developed without a second “hit” from infection.
Prof Sir Mel Greaves, Founding Director of the Center for Evolution and Cancer and Professor of Cell Biology at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Our study provides new insight into the origins of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“These new findings confirm that the disease can be traced back to the uterus when pre-leukemia cells spread via the twins’ shared blood supply,”
He added: “What has remained a mystery until now is why sometimes only one twin is diagnosed with leukemia.
Common leukemia signs and symptoms are:
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that affects cells in the bone marrow and attacks the immune system.
The most common symptoms are:
- unusual bleeding
- repeated infection
Other symptoms of leukemia are:
- fever or night sweats
- bone or joint pain
- swollen lymph nodes
Source: Leukemia UK
“We still don’t know exactly what leads to the first ‘hit’ of genetic changes in the womb, but we believe that the second ‘hit’ of genetic changes is likely triggered by common childhood infections – opening up the possibility of ‘priming’ the immune system in infancy to prevent the development of the disease later in life,” he said.
Meanwhile, common childhood viruses are currently on the rise in the UK.
The UKHSA said hospital admissions for flu are also highest in children under the age of five.
Chief Nursing Officer Dame Ruth May said hospital cases of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) Winterbug were at a five-year high.
Separate research has found that raising children in ultra-clean homes increases their risk of developing ALL.
Around 500 children in the UK are diagnosed with ALL each year, according to the NHS.
Medical advances mean 90 percent are now cured, but they still suffer from toxic chemotherapy for life.
ALL accounts for four-fifths of childhood leukemia cases.
It is most common in affluent societies where children have fewer siblings, less socializing with other youth, and clean homes.
Cases of ALL are increasing at about 1 percent annually in developed countries.
https://www.the-sun.com/health/6956975/flu-trigger-cancer-blood/ Urgent warning as common childhood bugs can ‘increase your child’s risk of cancer’