Largest childhood leukaemia study ever conducted finds 15% of cases due to gamma radiation

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Around the world rates of childhood cancers are increasing according to multiple new studies on both State and National levels and available explanations don’t offer a complete picture of why more kids are getting sick.

A study in California showed that rates of new cases of childhood cancers are increasing, according to a new study by the California HealthCare Foundation, a statewide health organization.

The California study was  preceded by separate results published last week suggesting that low dose X-rays from a type of hospital scan can triple the chances of children developing leukaemia or brain cancer.

The largest study ever conducted on links between childhood cancer and background radiation show that natural gamma rays may be responsible for around 40 cases of childhood leukaemia in the UK each year.

Gamma rays are essentially a highly penetrating form of invisible light that form part of the natural background radiation everyone is exposed to.

Study leader Dr Gerald Kendall, from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at Oxford University, said: “We found a statistically significant correlation between natural gamma-rays and childhood leukaemia.

Dr Kendall’s team analysed tens of thousands of cases from the National Registry of Childhood Tumours, a complete record of UK childhood cancers.

The scientists looked at radiation exposures for almost 27,500 children diagnosed with cancer between 1980 and 2006, including more than 9,000 with leukaemia. These were compared with exposures for almost 37,000 cancer free children.

Cumulative gamma radiation exposures from birth to diagnosis were estimated for different regions.

The researchers found a 12% increase in the risk of childhood leukaemia for every millisievert of natural gamma rays entering the bone marrow. “What is new in our findings is the direct demonstration that there are radiation effects at these very low doses and dose-rates said Dr Kendall.

“Natural gamma-rays account for about half the dose (of background radiation) reaching children’s bone marrow from all sources. ”

“We have estimated that about 15% of the 500 or so cases of childhood leukaemia which occur annually in the UK are due to natural background radiation.”

Co-author Professor Richard Wakeford, from the University of Manchester, said: “Naturally occurring gamma-rays provide an ever-present, very low-level source of exposure to radiation, but this very large epidemiological study suggests that even at these very low levels there is a very small risk to health.”

The findings contradict the controversial belief that very low radiation doses have little or no effect on cancer rates.

They follow separate results published last week suggesting that low dose X-rays from a type of hospital scan can triple the chances of children developing leukaemia or brain cancer.

No significant associations were discovered between natural gamma rays and other childhood cancers. Nor was a link found between any kind of cancer and levels of radon, a radioactive gas produced by certain rocks.

Source: The Independent (UK)

Source: Sac Bee

Source: AP News

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