Protect Your Child from Cancer in Adulthood: Four Lifestyle Tips


kasey-rangan-author-banner-073113_v1Whenever a child is diagnosed with a cancer the number one question I see as a pediatric nurse practitioner in Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases is, “What caused my child’s cancer?” Parents often wonder if there was any way they could have prevented their child from developing cancer. Can we (parents) protect our child from cancer? I’ll be doing my best to answer this in this blog post. I’ll also point out along the way how some of the choices we make for our child (and family) can protect them from developing cancer as an adult.

Childhood Cancer Facts:

mom and daughter

  • Each year in the United States, approximately 12,400 children and teenagers are diagnosed with a form of cancer.
  • The causes of most pediatric cancers remain a mystery.
  • Cancer claims the lives of more children each year than AIDS, asthma, cystic fibrosis and diabetes combined.
  • About one in 500 young adults is a survivor of childhood cancer.

What Causes Childhood Cancers?

There is very little known about the cause of childhood cancers or the ability to prevent them. We do know that some unique cancers are caused by rare inherited conditions. There has been a lot of research about carcinogens, including environmental exposures such as second-hand cigarette smoke, electrical power lines, cell phones and chemical exposures in pregnant moms. Although some of these factors might play a role in the development of cancer, there is no clear evidence, so far, about the role of the environment in childhood cancers.

Protect Your Child from Developing Cancer as an Adult

Lifestyle choices play the biggest role in the development of cancer, with only two percent of cancer caused by environmental carcinogens in the U.S. As parents, we can teach our family healthy habits that may help reduce cancer risk over a lifetime. Some of these habits include:

1. Inspire healthy eating habits for the entire family

  • Encourage a diet that is full of fruits and vegetables. At least one and a half to two cups a day.
  • Use lean sources of protein, such as skinless chicken, turkey fish and soy, when you cook at home and when you eat at a restaurant.
  • Limit the amount of soda your child drinks.
  • Avoid or limit fast food meals and meats that are over-processed, such as hot dogs.

My fellow RN Remedies blogger, Tere Jones, talks about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables here.

2. Use sunscreen on a daily basis. Protecting skin from the sun will reduce skin cancer risks.

  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher.
  • Apply daily when your child will be outdoors.
  • Choose broad spectrum UVA/UVB coverage.
  • Use hats and sunglasses in addition to sunscreen.

My fellow RN Remedies blogger, Megan Summers, talks more about sunscreen tips here.

3. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity increases the risk of many cancers.

  • Keep weight within a healthy body mass index (BMI). To calculate your child’s BMI, we have an easy calculator online. The number that is calculated will tell you whether your child is under or overweight.
  • Seek the advice of your pediatric health care provider for a weight reduction plan if your child is overweight.
  • Encourage your child to participate in regular physical activity every day.

4. Avoid cigarette smoke. Your child is still exposed to the dangers of cigarette smoke, even if you smoke outside.

  • Children should not be exposed to second-hand smoke from family members or neighbors.
  • Remind your child of the dangers of smoking and not to smoke cigarettes.
  • If you smoke cigarettes, smoke as far away from your child as possible.

Overall, pediatric cancers are rare, but if a child is diagnosed, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is a great place for them to receive care and treatment during their journey. I encourage you to practice and share the four lifestyle tips. You can begin protecting your child as early as today! If you have questions or concerns about your child, I encourage you to discuss them with your pediatric health care provider.