What does all mean to us?

If you are a parent and your child has been diagnosed with cancer, your immediate reaction might be to find out where you fit. Are you the one who smoked during pregnancy, whose child was the first-born, who had miscarriages or perhaps none of the above? You are not alone; we all try to associate ourselves with something listed above so that we have some answers and perhaps someone or something to blame.

SEER (Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results) currently categorises the risk factors as:

  • Known risk factors - most researchers consider these characteristics or exposures to be "causes" of the particular cancer
  • Suggestive but not conclusive evidence - the scientific evidence linking these characteristic or exposures to the particular cancer meets some but not all of the criteria
  • Conflicting evidence - some studies show the putative risk factor to be associated with higher risk but others show no increased risk or lower risk
  • Limited evidence - very few studies have investigated the putative risk factor. The existing studies may have investigated the exposure in a superficial manner or methodological issues may make the results difficult to interpret

Based on these categories, we can tell you that these research results do not tell us much. They just suggest there is an association between environmental factors and childhood cancers, but the most results are inconclusive or inconsistent. They also suggest that research needs to continue to know more, because we know very little.

Some studies have been carried out in one country but not in another. Some studies that were carried out in one location did not use the same methods for the same type of investigations, hence the results are incomparable and inconsistent. Some others studied only the young children but not the older ones.

We need to investigate environmental factors globally with a wider participation in order to:

  • prove or disprove the theories put forward
  • generate new theories to investigate
  • confirm the results obtained so far
  • resolve the conflicting evidences