In an attempt to throw light on the primarily misconceived subject, scientists have studied the community beliefs about what causes cancer in children. According to the researchers, this is the area which highly remains understudied.
“Few childhood cancers are attributed to genetics or environmental factors, so when children are diagnosed with cancer, families often wonder ‘why me/why us’?” said lead author Janine Vetsch, postdoctoral research candidate from UNSW Sydney in Australia.
‘Many cancer survivors and survivors’ parents perceive a misconception that cancer is caused by bad luck and they could do nothing to prevent it.’
For the study, the team examined the beliefs of more than 600 participants — parents and childhood cancer survivors — about the causes of childhood cancer, and compared them with beliefs of 510 members of the general population.
Findings, published in Acta Oncologica, revealed that more than seven out of 10 childhood cancer survivors and survivors’ parents believed that chance or bad luck caused the cancer.
This led to most parents and survivors seem to understand that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the cancer, according to Vetsch.
However, around one in five families did believe that environmental factors and genetics played a role, despite only limited available scientific evidence, results further showed.
“It looks like healthcare professionals are successfully helping most families arrive at that view,” said Vetsch.
Such views could lead to stigma. Hence, it is important to increase community knowledge of childhood cancer causes in general.
There is a need to encourage doctors to talk about the causes with affected families to address unhelpful misconceptions,” Vetsch suggested.