Cancer rates among children in Cyprus are among the highest in the world, according to Loizos Loizou, professor of paediatrics, paediatric oncology, and immunology at the of the University of Nicosia Medical School.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency on Wednesday, Loizou said that the phenomenon is being thoroughly investigated to ascertain the causes behind it, adding that in recent years there has also been an increase specifically in the number of thyroid cancer cases.
“According to the population-based cancer registry for children and adolescents, the incidence of cancer in children and adolescents aged 0-19 is among the highest worldwide, but there is no increase in in recent decades except for thyroid cancer cases and mainly for those aged 15 to 19.
“For this particular age group, we have observed an annual increase of 7.5 per cent, which is concerning. For all other forms of cancer such as leukaemia, lymphomas, sarcomas, and brain tumours we are at stable levels, even if those levels are among the highest in the world,” Loizou said.
He added that doctors and researchers in Cyprus are attempting to understand the underlying cause of such high cancer rates among children and adolescence, but the answers to the ongoing issues are proving difficult to find.
“We do not currently have concrete answers, but we are investigating,” Loizou said.
“One of possible causes is the excessive exposure to ionizing radiation due to medical examinations. We cannot prove it and, more generally, it can hardly be proven. One of our recommendations is to limit unnecessary testing of children and adolescents as much as possible.
Loizou urged parents and guardians to limit x-rays on their children, including dental panoramic examinations, chest and spinal x-rays and any other form of procedure using ionizing radiation.
The second possible cause of the high rate of cancers among children on the island could be linked to the rampant obesity affecting the age group, according to Loizou.
“Studies have shown that certain forms of dangerous leukaemia are more common among obese children. However, more studies are needed to prove that obesity can indeed lead to cancer among children.”