Sunday, December 30, 2018

Missing microbes increase risk of childhood cancer

Besides possibly useful information, an example of somewhat misleading headline for the sake of drawing readers. The original headline is below, I used a more accurate on for the heading in this blog post.

Missing microbes 'cause' childhood cancer
By James Gallagher Health and science correspondent, BBC News
May 21, 2018

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia affects one in 2,000 children.

Prof Mel Greaves, from the Institute of Cancer Research, has amassed 30 years of evidence to show the immune system can become cancerous if it does not "see" enough bugs early in life.


The type of blood cancer is more common in advanced, affluent societies, suggesting something about our modern lives might be causing the disease.

There have been wild claims linking power cables, electromagnetic waves and chemicals to the cancer.

That has been dismissed in this work published in Nature Reviews Cancer.

Instead, Prof Greaves - who has collaborated with researchers around the world - says there are three stages to the disease.

The first is a seemingly unstoppable genetic mutation that happens inside the womb
Then a lack of exposure to microbes in the first year of life fails to teach the immune system to deal with threats correctly
This sets the stage for an infection to come along in childhood, cause an immune malfunction and leukaemia

This "unified theory" of leukaemia was not the result of a single study, rather a jigsaw puzzle of evidence that established the cause of the disease.


This study is absolutely not about blaming parents for being too hygienic.

Rather it shows there is a price being paid for the progress we are making in society and medicine.


To date we have treated microbes as the bad guys. Yet recognising their important role for our health and wellbeing is revolutionising the understanding of diseases from allergies to Parkinson's and depression and now leukaemia.


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