'Modern life' blamed for giving kids cancer

'Modern life' blamed for giving kids cancer

Some of the hallmarks of modern life - including fast food, power lines and cellphones - are being blamed for a rise in youth cancer rates in the UK.

Analysis of government statistics by charity Children with Cancer UK has found diagnosis rates for people aged between 15 and 24 are up 60 percent since 1998, and overall there are 40 percent more children being diagnosed with cancer every year.

Not all of it can be put down to population growth and improved detection, says Bristol University's Denis Henshaw, scientific adviser for Children with Cancer.

"When you look at cancers such as childhood leukaemia there is no doubt that environmental factors are playing a big role," Dr Henshaw told UK paper The Telegraph.

"We were shocked to see the figures, and it's modern lifestyle I'm afraid.

"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."

Colon cancer is up 200 percent, thyroid cancer rates have doubled, ovarian cancer is up 50 percent and cervical, 50 percent.

Children with Cancer says it's costing the UK's National Health Service an extra £130 million a year (NZ$237 million).

Less than 1 percent of cancers in the UK occur in children however, and 80 percent of those diagnosed survive for at least five years.

Children with Cancer is holding a conference in London this week to look at the latest breakthroughs and research in treatment.