Over the past 16 years, the number of children diagnosed with cancer in the U.K. has shot up 40%, a new study shows; and experts are warning of a cancer “epidemic.”
The reason? Modern life is making people sick.
The study comes from researchers at Bristol University in the U.K., where many children spend less time outdoors than U.S. prison inmates, opting instead to stay inside and play video games or use tablets and smartphones.
Dr. Denis Henshaw, Professor of Human Radiation Effects at Bristol University, said:
“When you look at cancers such as childhood leukemia there is no doubt that environmental factors are playing a big role. We were shocked to see the figures, and it’s modern lifestyle I’m afraid.”
In the United Kingdom, over 4,000 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer each year. In children aged1 to 14, cancer is the leading cause of death. 
The 40% increase in cases is due, in part, to population growth. The incidence rate per 100,000 people has risen by 30%. 
The increase in cancer diagnoses among children and young people since 1998 is alarming. The number of thyroid cases has doubled; and diagnoses of other cancers have likewise increased – colon cancer, 200%; ovarian cancer, 70%; and cervical cancer, 50%. 
Alasdair Philips, trustee and science adviser to the charity Children with Cancer U.K., said:
“We are losing the battle against childhood cancer.
It is so many lives lost, so many futures unfulfilled, so many devastated families – families debilitated, parents forced to give up work, live in hospital, young siblings stressed. At times I feel overwhelmed.
It is an epidemic. Up to age 14 we do see much better five-year survival rates, but with most types of cancer 50 per cent of children will die within several years. More children are dying.
Quite often cancer can leave survivors with impacted fertility and mental ability because of the caustic nature of treatment. And there is a significantly higher risk of developing an adult cancer in their forties or fifties.” 
The Face Of The Enemy
The very things that have made the 21st Century such a convenient and innovative period of history are sickening children and prematurely ending their lives.
As The Telegraph reports, the experts behind the research blame many factors of modern life:
“Among these are obesity, pesticides and solvents inhaled during pregnancy, circadian rhythm disruption through too much bright light at night, radiation from x-rays and CT scans, smoking during and after pregnancy, magnetic fields from power lines, gadgets in homes, and potentially, radiation from mobile phones.” 
Philips said he believes that 7 out of 10 cancer cases in children and young people could be due to lifestyle, adding:
“Scientists have found 287 man-made chemicals in an examination of fetus cord blood. They are not all carcinogenic of course, but some are and many have not been tested. Only about five% of cancers are caused by hereditary factors. We must push for this message to be more available at doctors, in schools.”
“Many items on the list of environmental causes are now known to be carcinogenic, such as air pollution and pesticides and solvents. There has been good research to suggest a mother’s diet can damage DNA in cord blood. Light at night we know is very disruptive for the body, which is why shift workers have such bad health.
Burnt barbecues, the electric fields of power lines, the electricity supply in your home. Hairdryers. It’s all of these things coming together, and it seems to be teenagers and young people that are most affected.
What’s worrying is it is very hard to avoid a lot of these things. How can you avoid air pollution? It sometimes feels like we are fighting a losing battle.”
How To Turn The Tide
Simple changes such as letting children attend preschool to boost their immune system, not painting children’s rooms with oil-based paints, and avoiding processed meats during pregnancy could have a positive and lasting impact on the number of youngsters who get a devastating diagnosis. 
The researchers also recommended that adults avoid shift work, but people don’t always have a choice in the hours they work.
People can also turn to natural cleaners on the market, or create their own.
Nicola Smith, Cancer Research U.K.’s senior health information officer, said:
“Evidence has shown that there are lots of things adults can do to reduce cancer risk and it’s always a good idea to set up healthy habits as a family, like eating healthily, being active and enjoying the sun safely.”
This article originally appeared at Natural Society.