Causes and prevention of cancer in children and teenagers

The cause of most children´s cancers is unknown. But there are certain things called risk factors that can increase their chance of getting:

  • Inherited medical conditions: Children with inherited conditions such as Down syndrome are more at risk of developing childhood leukaemia, but it is still very rare.
     
  • Development in the womb: Rarer tumours such as Wilms´ tumour and retinoblastomas are believed to develop while the child is still in the womb.
     
  • Infection: Epstein Barr virus (EBV) is a common infection among children. It is thought that EBV can develop into certain types of lymphoma.
     
  • Previous radiotherapy: Children who have been treated with radiotherapy for cancer in the past have a slightly higher risk of getting another cancer in the future.
     
  • Previous chemotherapy: Children who have been treated with chemotherapy for cancer in the past have a slightly higher risk of getting another cancer in the future.

Research looking into other possible causes is ongoing. Cancer is rarely caused by an inherited faulty gene and passed through a family. It is unusual for two children from one family to get cancer. Children´s cancers are not infectious and cannot be passed from one child to another.

If you feel your child may be at risk, first talk to your family doctor (GP) about your concerns. He or she may advise you to visit a specialist. Remember that if your child is diagnosed with cancer, it is not because you or your child did something wrong.

Call our Cancer Nurseline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 6pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm

Date Last Reviewed: 
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Date Last Revised: 
Tuesday, August 25, 2015