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Children, and the environment and cancer
Much of the research on the links between the environment and cancer has focused on exposure in adults. There hasn’t been a lot of research looking at the impact of these links early in life – either before birth or in babies and young children. Finding out about this is important because researchers believe that children may be more vulnerable to substances that may increase the risk of cancer, cause birth defects or interfere with the normal hormonal system in the body. There are several reasons for this:
- Children may absorb more environmental contaminants because they breathe, eat and drink more than adults relative to their body weight.
- Children, especially infants and toddlers, sit more often on the ground and crawl to areas where adults typically don’t go. As they explore, they often put their hands and fingers into their mouths.
- There are periods during normal human development when exposure may pose more harm than during other parts of life. For example, the risk of developing cancer is greater among children exposed to radiation than it is for adults exposed to the same amount of radiation.