Childhood cancer is on the increase in Europe. It's risen by 1 per cent in children and 1.5 per cent among adolescents over the past 20 years, researchers have found.
By the late 1990s the rate was 140 per million among children aged from 0 to 14 years and 157 per million when adolescents up to the age of 19 years were included. In children, the increase was found across most tumour types, while it was more confined among adolescents to carcinomas, lymphomas and germ-cell tumours.
In the past rises in childhood cancers have usually been restricted to developing countries, and so it's alarming to see similar trends appearing in Europe. The research team, headed by the Automated Childhood Cancer Information System (ACCIS), doesn't have any explanations for the increase.
But it's either an environmental factor - children living in Belarus suffered a massive increase of thyroid cancers after the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion, for example - or perhaps it's to do with the proliferation of mobile phones and masts, or the growth of electro-magnetic devices, or perhaps there's a dietary and nutritional factor that is causing the increase.
Whatever the cause, there's enough money involved to ensure very little digging will be done to find out.