Among the childhood malignancies, brain tumours are the second most common malignancy, after leukemia. The incidence of these tumours in young people under 20 years of age has been increasing recently. Although survival has improved considerably, the prevention of brain tumours is an important aim, but continues to be a challenge.
So far, little is known about risk factors for brain tumours. Some factors (e.g. exposure to ionizing radiation) and family history of brain cancer are known to increase the risk of developing brain tumours. Other environmental factors (e.g., exposure to chemicals, nutrition during pregnancy or exposure to electromagnetic fields including cellular phone use) may be associated with brain tumours. With respect to the latter, the use of cellular phones and other communication technologies has increased dramatically over the last decade, especially in children and its role in the development of brain cancer in young people has yet to be studied.
One problem in the study of environmental risk factors and brain cancer in young people has been the limited number of children included in previous studies. Although the frequency of brain cancer may have increased in young people over recent decades, it is fortunately still a rare disease. Therefore, international studies are needed to answer such research questions.
An international multi-centre study involving experts from 16 European and non-European countries is being conducted to examine the potential associations between use of communication devices and other environmental factors and risk of brain tumours. The study is partly supported by the European Union.
Between 2011 and 2014, nearly 1000 young people between 10 to 24 years with brain tumours and a similar number of young people without a brain tumour will be invited to participate in the study. A detailed questionnaire will be used covering demographic factors, residential history and questions on risk factors in the environment including the use of cellular phones of young people.
The following centres are involved in data collection:
• Australia: the University of Auckland and MONASH University
• Austria: the Medical University of Vienna
• Canada: the University of Ottawa
• France: the Association pour la Recherche Epidémiologique dans les Cancers de l’Enfant et de l’Adolescent and the Université de Lyon, Institut National de Recherche sur les Transports et leur Sécurité, Institut national de Veille Sanitaire, Unité Mixte de Recherche épidémiologique et de Surveillance Transports Travail Environnement
• Germany: the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich
• Greece: the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
•India : Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai
• Israel: the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology & Health Policy Research
• Italy: the Università degli Studi di Torino
•Japan: Tokyo Women’s Medical University
•Korea: Dankook University College of Medicine
• New Zealand: the University of Auckland
• Spain: Fundació Centre de Recerca en Epidemiologia Ambiental (CREAL), Fundació IMIM, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, University of Huelva and University of Valencia
• Taiwan: the National Taiwan University College of Public Health
• The Netherlands: Universiteit Utrecht
Support for exposure assessment will be provided by Orange in France, Public Health England, Tokyo Metropolitan University, and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in Korea. The project is coordinated by CREAL, Barcelona, Spain.
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