Experts : Malaria can cause cancer among children

Experts : Malaria can cause cancer among children

Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) still maintains that the real cause of cancer in children is yet to be known, it warns that some infections could increase the risk in children.

Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) still maintains that the real cause of cancer in children is yet to be known, it warns that some infections could increase the risk in children.

It noted evidence that some chronic infections among children could be linked to cancer, especially in low and middle-income countries like Kenya.

Kissing Disease

“For example, HIV, Epstein-Barr virus (which causes the infection famously known as ‘kissing disease’ because of how it is spread) and malaria increase the risk of some childhood cancers. Other infections can increase the child’s risk of developing cancer as an adult, so it is important to be vaccinated,” said WHO.

According to a study by specialists from Rockerfeller University in New York published by Nature, International Journal of Science, a malaria parasite infected in mice was found to have the ability to damage DNA in white blood cells.
The cells then become abnormal, triggering the onset of cancer.

“This could explain why Burkitt’s lymphoma, a cancer of mature B cells, is common in areas where malaria is endemic,” explained the study published in August 2015. The WHO now recommends mandatory vaccination for children to reduce these risk factors.
Kenya is one of the countries in Africa (others are Ghana, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania) carrying out a pilot phase of the first-ever malaria vaccine in the world known as RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S).

Leukaemia, brain cancer, lymphomas and tumours are the most common cancers among children.

According to WHO, cancer is increasingly becoming a leading cause of death among children and adolescents around the world, with approximately 300,000 children aged below 19 diagnosed each year.
But WHO still maintains that the real cause of cancers in children is yet to be known, as only 10 per cent of the cases documented are genetic.

“Unlike cancer in adults, the vast majority of childhood cancers do not have a known cause. Many studies have sought to identify the causes of childhood cancer, but very few cancers in children are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors,” read WHO’s latest fact sheet on cancer among children released on September 28.

Malaria is the second leading cause of death in Kenya after pneumonia. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, it killed 17,553 people in 2017, followed closely by cancer with 16,953.

There are approximately 7.9 million incidents of malaria documented in Government data in 2017. On the other hand, there are 39,000 new cases of cancer every year according to Kenya Cancer Network.

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