Leukemia most common cancer among children, rates in Lebanon low

Written by Abdo Helo
Translated by Daisy Khalil

 

NNA - Blood cancer, aka leukemia, is a disease of the blood cells which originates in the bone marrow. It is considered of the most common malignant diseases among children. Fortunately, it is rare as 4 to 5 cases out of every 100 thousand children are recorded per year. Specialists are conducting epidemiology research to find a link between cancer of the blood (leukemia) and exposure to viruses, chemicals, X-ray and others.


In very rare cases, genetics play a key role in the manifestation of this disease. In most cases however, the causes of leukemia are unknown as the disease is certainly not contagious.


Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist at Iowa University, Dr. Raymond Tannous, explained that "the number of children with leukemia is 40 per one million in the world, a ratio which is not so big."


In an exclusive interview with the National News Agency, Tannous said blood cancer recovery rates in the United States were quite good.


"Newborn babies until the age of 3 have a 25% chance of healing from leukemia while children between 3 and 10 years old have a cure rate of 90% and more," he explained.


Tannous stated that "one-third of cancer cases among children are in the blood, one-third in the head and the remaining third is divided between the lungs, the kidneys and the rest of the body," uttering surprise over the fact that children in the United States and Canada who live in unhygienic atmospheres, on the streets or in farms, are less likely to develop cancer.


Pertaining to the children of Lebanon and the Middle East, Tannous said "I do not know the exact number [of leukemia cases] as I only visited Lebanon once, but I think that the reason for its low incidence goes back to the food nature in this region."


"Little we know about the causes of more than 99 percent of cancers. For instance, if a mother uses drugs or anti-anxiety medicines during pregnancy, she would certainly give birth to a child with high risks of leukemia infection. Exposure to sunlight for long periods of time, especially in highlands, slightly increases the risks too. However, some families have in their genes a certain lack of immunity against cancer. Russia comes first and the United States next among most countries in terms of developing cancer."


Asked whether people should fear cancer patients, the Dr. said "on the contrary, the infected person himself is the one who needs to be scared to be around people. I always defend children with cancer as, in addition to their illness and the chemical treatments they undergo, they go to school where, sadly, everyone is afraid of them, and this is a huge mistake. The therapeutic drugs they are injected with and the medicine they take cause their immune system to weaken and become unable to fight bacteria, viruses or infections. So, if a person around them suffers any of these diseases, they have got to stay away from him, because any infection may in their case be fatal."


Asked if the number of cancer patients is rising annually, Tannous said "We do not know the figure for sure to be able to precisely count the increase. Agriculture today relies on chemicals to double the production of vegetables and fruits, despite all the very-known disadvantages of such measures."


"Studies have been conducted in the U.S. on possible changes in apple fruits in a bid to have a disease-free produce, but it turned out this would lead to a significant drop in quantities, which means that the rate of deaths due to famine will thus be greater than the incidence of cancer."


Answering a question about the link between smoking and cancer, Dr. Tannous said "many types of cancer affect non-smokers, but those who smoke have higher risks of being attained by the disease. Some families' genes make them more vulnerable than others. Radiological materials, oil substances and other elements could hardly be fought in such vulnerable bodies and, if not treated quickly, it would be too late."


"Cancer patients must not dwell on their illness. They should forget about it and their chances to be cured would be doubled, especially if it is discovered at early stages," Tannous said, noting that if not detected early, cancer cells could spread across the body gradually, which lowers the chances of survival.


"Prevention is better than a pound of cure," he concluded.

==========D.K.

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