- Pediatric cancer has been increasing over the last few decades.
- The causes of most pediatric cancers are not known.
- The possible link between vaccines and pediatric cancer has not been fully investigated.
According to the American Cancer Society, after accidents, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children between the ages of one and four. Although pediatric cancers account for less than one percent of all cancers diagnosed each year, the number of children diagnosed with cancer has been rising steadily over the last few decades.1
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimated that 10,270 new cases of pediatric cancers would be diagnosed in 2017 in children from birth to the age of 14. Approximately 1,190 of these children were expected to die as a result of cancer.2
The Five Most Common Pediatric Cancers in the U.S.
Interestingly, the types of cancers that develop in children are different than those that occur in adults.3 According to an article published in CURE Magazine:
The difference between childhood and adult cancers rarely comes down to simply age. Most tumors in children differ biologically from their adult counterparts, and are typically due to the type of cell from which the cancer originates. In the weeks after fertilization, the embryo develops into layers: ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. These layers lay the foundation for the development and maturation of tissues and organs in the body. Adult cancers, such as lung, breast, and colorectal, typically develop from epithelial tissue (adenocarcinomas), which come from the ectoderm or endoderm. Epithelial cells make up the skin and lining of the internal organs and glands. Alternatively, childhood cancers, including sarcomas (cancers of the bone or muscle) and leukemia (blood cancers), develop from the mesoderm.4
The most common pediatric cancer is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), accounting for 34 percent of all pediatric cancers. Leukemia begins in the bone marrow and spreads to the blood. This type of cancer typically occurs between the ages of two to four years and is more common in males than females.3
Brain tumors and nervous system tumors constitute about 27 percent of pediatric cancers.
Most brain tumors in children typically begin in the lower part of the brain.3 Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer than develops in certain types of nerve tissue, accounts for seven percent of pediatric cancers. It is more common in males under the age of five.3
Wilms tumor is the fourth common type of pediatric cancer affecting the kidneys and children between the ages of three to four years. Wilms accounts for five percent of all pediatric cancers.3
Lymphoma is the fifth most common type of pediatric cancer and occurs in a very small percentage of children. This type of cancer begins in immune system cells known as lymphocytes.3
Cause of Most Pediatric Cancers Has Yet to be Determined
The search for the causes of pediatric cancers has been systematically studied over the last few decades. However, there are no conclusive answers on what is causing children to develop cancer.5
According to NCI and a report published in Pediatric Clinics of North America, five to 10 percent of pediatric cancers are believed to be caused by an inherent genetic mutation, a mutation that can be passed on from parents to their child.6 For example, 25 to 30 percent of retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye that occurs in primarily in children, is believed to be caused by an inherited gene mutation known as RB1.6
Nonetheless, retinoblastoma only accounts for four percent of pediatric cancers and the cause of the remaining 70 percent of cases is still unknown.6
In another example, children with a genetic condition known as Down Syndrome are ten to twenty times more likely to develop leukemia than children without Down Syndrome. However, only a very small proportion of pediatric leukemia is associated with Down Syndrome.6
Studies have shown that that besides high dose radiation and prior chemotherapy, there are very few external or environmental risk factors known to be associated with pediatric cancers.5 Environmental factors refer to exposures children are exposed to that originate outside the human body.5
According to the NCI:
Most cancers in children, like those in adults, are thought to develop as a result of mutations in genes that lead to uncontrolled cell growth and eventually cancer. In adults, these gene mutations are often the result of exposure to environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke, asbestos, and ultraviolet radiation from the sun. However, environmental causes of childhood cancer have been difficult to identify, partly because cancer in children is rare, and partly because it is difficult to determine what children might have been exposed to early in their development.”6
Potential Link Between Vaccination and Pediatric Cancer Has Not Been Investigated
In the United States, the number of vaccines government health officials’ direct pediatricians to give to children has almost quadrupled in the last 60 years.7 In 1953, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) directed physicians to give a child up to 16 doses of four vaccines between the ages of two months and six years.7 The CDC now recommends that children receive more than triple the number of doses of vaccines, which are given between the day of birth and six. [The CDC’s 2018 childhood vaccine schedule recommends 50 doses of 14 vaccines before the age of six.]8
Coinciding with the significant increase in the number of vaccines is a simultaneous increase in chronic neurological and autoimmune disorders in children, including pediatric cancer.9 Most vaccine package inserts include a statement along the lines of, “This vaccine has not been evaluated for its carcinogenic or mutagenic potentials or impairment of fertility,” which suggests that the potential link between cancer and vaccines has not been thoroughly studied.10 In fact, some vaccine ingredients, such as formaldehyde are known carcinogens.11
It is worth noting that there was public discussion in the 1990s about the contamination of both the Salk inactivated and Sabin live polio vaccines with a monkey virus (SV-40) known to cause cancer in lab animals. Federal health officials acknowledged that SV40 was found in early polio vaccines produced with the use of infected African Green monkey kidney tissues. However, they rejected the finding of a causal association between SV40 and human cancers reported by credentialed non-government scientists in multiple labs around the world, who had independently identified SV40 in the brain and lung cancers of children and adults.12 13
Until well-designed biological mechanism and epidemiological studies are conducted to investigate vaccines and pediatric cancer, including a comparison of cancer rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated children, the question about whether vaccines do or do not cause cancer in children will remain unanswered.
1 American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Childhood Cancer. American Cancer Society Aug. 22. 2016.
2 The National Cancer Institute. Childhood Cancers. Cancer.gov Aug. 30, 2017.
3 Aquilino B. Top 5 Pediatric Cancers: The Warning Signs. Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Sept. 6, 2012.
4 Whittington E. Kids and Adults: What’s the Difference? CureToday.com June 12, 2008.
5 Spector L, Pankratz N, Marcotte E. Genetic and non-genetic risk factors for childhood cancer. Pediatric Clinics of North America 2015; 62(1): 11-25.
6 The National Cancer Institute. Cancer in Children and Adolescents. Cancer.gov Aug. 24, 2017.
7 National Vaccine Information Center. 49 Doses of 14 Vaccines Before the Age of 6? 69 Doses of 16 Vaccines by Age 18? Before You Take the Risk, Find Out What It Is. NVIC.org 2013.
8 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended Immunization Schedule for Children and Adolescents Aged 18 Years of Younger, United States, 2018. CDC.gov.
9 Fisher BL. Is the Childhood Vaccine Schedule Safe? NVIC.org Oct. 1, 2017.
10 Martin L. Is There a Vaccine Cancer Connection? The Truth About Cancer.
11 Raines K. Formaldehyde: A Poison and Carcinogen. The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 9, 2015.
12 Fisher BL. The SV40- Virus: Has Tainted Polio Vaccine Caused An Increase in Cancer? Testimony in U.S. House Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness Hearing Sept. 10, 2003.
13 Curtis T. Monkeys, viruses and vaccines. The Lancet 2004; 364(9432): 407-408.