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HEALTH REPORT  -- Cancer and Children - 2003-02-25

Broadcast: February 26, 2003

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Most children who die of cancer are in developing nations. British researchers say only ten percent of children with cancer in these countries survive. They say many more could be saved if their countries had the resources needed to find cancers and treat them.

Around the world, about one-hundred-sixty-six thousand children under age fifteen are found each year to have cancer. The researchers say eighty-four percent of these cases are found in developing countries. But many others go unnoticed.

Children from industrial countries who do get cancer also have a much better chance to survive. For example, more than seventy percent in countries like Britain and the United States are alive after five years.

An organization called Cancer Research United Kingdom announced these numbers to mark International Childhood Cancer Day on February fifteenth. The purpose of the event is to educate the public and raise money for children with cancer.

Cancer Research U-K says fifty-four percent of cancer cases among children strike in Asia. Also, more than half of all child cancer deaths happen in Asia. Africa has twenty-percent of childhood cancer cases and twenty-five percent of the deaths.

Vaskar Saha of Cancer Research U-K is a childhood cancer expert. Professor Saha called for an international campaign against childhood cancer similar to the campaign against AIDS. The goal would be to increase the supply and reduce the cost of drugs to treat cancer in developing countries.

Earlier this month, world trade negotiators agreed to continue to look for ways to cut drug prices for developing nations.

Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells. Drug companies say they have improved this treatment in recent years while reducing harmful side effects. But many developing countries cannot pay for chemotherapy drugs. Another way to fight cancer is to cut out the diseased cells. A third way is to use radiation to target cancer cells.

Scientists say most cancers are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental conditions. There are warning signs of childhood cancer. These can include a white spot in the eye, unusual growths, weight loss and tiredness. Unexplained bleeding, pain and high body temperature are other possible signs.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.