Ten ways to prevent cancer in children
Limit their exposure to chemicals
Your children’s genes influence their risk of cancer and this is not something you can change.
But lifestyle and environment also influence their risk, and this is where you can have an impact.
Insecticides, especially those used indoors have recently been shown to increase children’s risk of leukaemia by 47 per cent.
Keep away cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic, benzene, and asbestos.
When working in chemical industries, put on appropriate safety gear and make sure your clothes don’t carry with them chemicals/poisons, home from work.
Follow the instructions and ingredients in the products you use at home to avoid pestcides poisoning.
Store household chemicals such as cleaners, paints and degreasers safely high up and locked away.
Breastfeeding is an investment in your child’s health and not a lifestyle decision.
Infants who are breastfed not only have reduced risks of asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes but also gastrointestinal cancers.
Breastfeeding can help lower a mother’s risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
Get enough folic acid during pregnancy
Folic acid is a pregnancy superhero! Taking a prenatal vitamin with the recommended 400 microgrammes (mcg) of folic acid before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of your baby’s brain and spinal cord.
Studies have found evidence of a specific protective effect of prenatal folic acid supplementation against the risk of Childhood Brain Tumours (CBT).
Another large international collaborating study, including 7,000 children with acute leukemia and 11, 000 controls, found reduced risks of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) after maternal intake of folic acid supplements.
Feed them a healthy diet
Feed them more fruits, food rich in fibre and vegetables. Avoid processed meats and an overabundance of red meat and salt.
A healthy diet helps the body remove harmful chemicals, prevent and repair damage to DNA, and block the formation of cancer-causing chemicals.
A less healthy diet has been linked to breast, mouth, oesophagus and gastrointestinal cancers. Also let them take a lot of water.
Encourage exercise and healthy weight
Exercise stabilises levels of hormones such as oestrogen and insulin that have been linked to cancer.
An active lifestyle decreases the incidence of breast, bowel, and uterine cancers.
Also keep their weight within a healthy body mass index (BMI). Obesity has been linked to breast cancer, oesophageal and bowel cancers, and liver, kidney, pancreas and uterine cancers.
6. Treat infections and reduce exposure to radiation
Infection can increase cancer risk by causing chronic inflammation and suppressing the immune system. So, make sure that your child get treated and finish his /her dose.
Children who have radiotherapy for cancer have a slightly greater risk of developing another type of cancer later on.
But the risk is small compared to the risk to their health if the original cancer was not treated with radiotherapy.
7. Don’t use tobacco
Don’t allow anyone to smoke around your child. The poisons in tobacco damage DNA, increasing the incidence of 14 different cancers including some leukemias, lung, voice box, throat, liver and kidney cancers just to mention a few.
Children should not be exposed to second-hand smoke from family members or neighbours.
If you smoke cigarettes, smoke as far away from your child as possible. Passive smoking alone increases cancer risk by 25 per cent.
8. Check environmental contributors
Scientific research has demonstrated links between environmental exposures and the development of childhood cancers.
There are a number of potential air and water pollutants emitted during unconventional oil and gas operations that may be harmful to human health, including carcinogens such as benzene.
There has been evidence of cancer happening among nonrelated children in certain neighbourhoods and/or villages.
Whether prenatal or infant exposure to these agents causes cancer, or whether it is a coincidence, is unknown.
9. Get them the HPV vaccine
Fortunately, a vaccine exists to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers including cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile and anal cancers, as well as oropharyngeal cancer, a cancer of the back of the throat.
Get your child the HPV vaccine when he or she attains the age of 12 years. The second dose should be given six to 12 months after the first dose.
Teens and young adults who start the series later, at age 15 or older, will need three doses of the HPV vaccine.
10. Know your family medical history and get regular cancer screenings
Your family members may share genes, habits, and environments that can affect your child’s risk of getting cancer.
Having a genetic mutation does not mean your child will get cancer. You can do things to lower or manage their cancer risk. Talk to your doctor about tests.
They may need to start getting screening tests earlier and get tested more often than other people. They may also need medicine or surgery that could lower cancer risk.