Skip to main content

Brain Cancer Leading Death Rates In Australian Children

Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in young people and accounts for more than one third of cancer deaths in children aged under 10. This alarming statistic reflects the least funded and deadliest cancer in Australia. Leading neurosurgeon, Dr Charlie Teo said recently, “People continue to believe that cancer is a disease that strikes as you get older. I saw 23 patients last week. Twenty were diagnosed with malignant brain cancer. Eight of those diagnosed were under 16 years old.”

Every year about 2,000 Australian children under the age of sixteen are diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Dr Andrew Peman, CEO of Cancer Council NSW recently said, “Despite having a fatality rate of almost 100 per cent, brain cancer remains the least understood of all the cancers. It’s the biggest cancer killer of young people and we need funds to change this. Each year increasing numbers of malignant brain cancer cases are diagnosed in Australia. One every eight hours die from the disease. Risk factors of brain cancer are unknown and there are no screening procedures in place.

It’s a sad state of affairs that the leading cause of cancer deaths in Australian children today is considered an unknown quantity, and that known risk factors are ignored because they are beyond medical intervention … because it is well known today that brain tumor development is impacted heavily by two simple and avoidable factors that can protect and sometimes even improve the condition. How sad that as a concerned parent you may not be even hearing about what is within your ability to control.

What an indictment that the Brain Tumor Association of Western Australia reports that once diagnosed, patients only have a 25 percent chance of living past 2 years, and that unfortunately, the cause of brain cancer is still unknown and therefore preventative measures cannot be implemented.

How unfortunate that parents are not even warned of any possible causes of brain tumor. Brain tumors do not discriminate. It is usually impossible to determine the cause of a brain tumor in any given individual. Once diagnosed, patients have just a five per cent chance of surviving this extremely aggressive disease according to medical statistics. Most die within six months. The very idea is scary – a tumour growing inside your head. Fortunately, in adults it’s not common. Every year there are about 400 new brain cancers diagnosed in Australia. Unfortunately, about 25 of these are in children. 

The Savvy Team use the experience and lifelong investigation of world renown toxicologist Professor Samuel Epstein (who has written widely for over 60 years, informing governments worldwide on the growing dangers) to stay ahead in the area of prevention. We are committed to letting the general public know about the two or three simple steps that can be taken, to prevent and even overcome any metabolic disease. They also are willing to support those who contact them with these simple solutions to this rapidly growing and terrifying disease – solutions that seem to apply to not only brain tumors, but to all other metabolic forms of illness and disease.

Brain tumors are the:

  • Second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children (males and females) under age 20 (leukemia is the first).
  • Second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in males ages 20-39 (leukemia is the first).
  • Fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in females ages 20-39.
  • The facts and statistics here include brain and central nervous system tumors (including spinal cord, pituitary and pineal gland tumors).
  • The risk factors for brain tumor are almost unknown, though there are hints that suggest early exposure to certain chemicals might play a role.
  • In 2013 Australian research has revealed a possible link between pesticide treatments and brain tumours in children. The Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth looked at 300 children with brain tumours and almost 1,000 healthy children. They found parents exposure to pesticides in the 12 months before the child was born increased the likelihood of a brain tumour.
  • Professor Elizabeth Milne says parents exposed to termite treatments had twice the risk compared to parents without the exposure. She says it would be advisable for parents to avoid exposure to professional pest control treatments in the year leading up to conception.
  • In 2010 the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle reported that children who develop brain tumors are likely both to have been exposed to higher than average amounts of pesticides and to have been born with a reduced ability to detoxify these chemicals (Barrett JR 2010, Nielsen SS et al 2010).
  • Other studies also point to chemical exposure as a potential risk factor. The children of women who had high exposure to beauty-products are at increased risk for brain tumors (Efird JT et al 2005).
  • Personal hair dye use increases risk in one study. Using brown hair dye for 20 years, for example, almost quadrupled risk of glioma in women (Bluhm EC et al 2007).
  • Individuals who engage in a hobby that involves using glue are at 18 times the average risk (Spinelli V et al 2009).
  • A 2009 review found that people who used cell phones for at least 10 years had a 2.4-fold greater risk of developing an acoustic neuroma in the ear to which they routinely held their phone, but had no change in risk for other types of cancer (Han YY et al 2009).
  • The idea that nitrosamines in processed meats may increase the risk of glioma has been circulating for several decades (Michaud DS et al 2009).

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimate that 22,020 primary malignant brain tumors will be diagnosed in 2010 (Porter KR et al 2010). The medical treatment of primary brain tumors typically consists of two steps: surgical excision, followed by combined radiation and chemotherapy. For advanced or high-grade tumors the benefit of these therapies seems small. “After conventional treatments, the survival rate for patients with astrocytomas or glioblastomas is about 50% at 1 year, 25% at 2 years, and 10 to 15% at 5 years” (Online Merck Manual, accessed Oct, 2010).

So What Can Be Done For Prevention?

With the current trends in the scientific world now seeming to point to these same two factors: reducing chemical exposure and increasingly broad spectrum supplementation, we thought you might like to stay up to date on current trends . . .

That is why many patients wisely seek complementary therapies hoping to improve their odds, the National Cancer Council stated. Dr Andrew Penman, CEO of Cancer Council NSW said, “Despite having a fatality rate of almost 100 per cent, brain cancer remains the least understood of all the cancers. It’s the biggest cancer killer of young people and we need funds to change this.

“Each year about 1400 cases of malignant brain cancer are diagnosed in Australia and about 1100 people die from the disease. That’s one every eight hours. Risk factors of brain cancer are unknown and there are no screening procedures in place.

“A third of cancers can be prevented by making conscious lifestyle choices, for example by not smoking, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. However, brain cancer is indiscriminate and due to the lack of research we don’t know how to prevent it. Worryingly, there has been no significant improvement to brain cancer survival rates in almost two decades.”

Reduce Chemical Exposure

Whether this is just looking at pesticides, herbacides and other unnatural and harmful substances in the food you eat, in the toxins lurking in your bathroom (ingredients in your toothpaste, shampoos, soaps, skincare and cosmetics cause damage, disrupt cells and penetrate the heart, liver, brain from skin contact), or the things you use around the home (cleaning agents, insect sprays, bacterial cleansers for your benches, deodorisers) … these all impact into brain tumor growth – and why isn’t this shouted from rooftops?


Saturate Your Body With Nutrients & Nutrient Rich Foods

Interest in researching the possible protective effect of maternal vitamin use before or during pregnancy against childhood brain tumors (CBT) and other childhood cancers has grown over the past decade. Given the inadequacy of standard medical treatment in controlling high-grade malignant brain tumors, this approach of co-treating brain tumors by reducing toxicity via exposure to chemicals and with nutritional supplementation, along with a health supportive (what some call a brain tumor-specific) diet in addition to the medical oncology standard of care, is an option that offers hope to those afflicted with brain tumors.

Because of the synergistic effects between various anti-cancer nutrients and phytochemicals, the Savvy team recommends use of a wide variety of these substances rather than attempting to rely on large doses of single nutrients to fight cancer. As well there are two specific diets that should be considered for treating brain tumors, either separately or in combination which we will discuss shortly. However because it is recommended to use additional nutritional supplementation for best effectiveness, and even without addressing the diet issue, let’s have a look at some of the nutritional research that impacts directly on brain cancer.

There are many other studies that point to the crucial aspect of nutritional factors in brain tumors. This is not surprising news as many parents have found that increasing ones uptake of good quality (not easy to find) nutrients plays an import role in all dis-ease conditions – whether they be neurological, physical, emotional or mentally (psychological) based. When one adds the additional benefit of reducing one’s toxic load both via further exposure and by detoxification of the body, the speed with which one responds is even greater.

The Importance of Folate For Brain Tumor Reduction

A national study completed in 2012 and led by Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research has found that folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy reduces the risk of childhood brain tumours. The national case-control study conducted between 2005 and 2011 to investigate nutritional, environmental and genetic risk factors for childhood brain tumours. Our Australian study of CBTs investigated whether maternal use folic acid and other supplements was protective. These results suggest that folic acid supplements before and possibly during pregnancy may protect against CBT.

Study leader Professor Elizabeth Milne said while other studies had investigated the impact of multivitamin supplements, this research project was the first to separate out different types of supplements, including folic acid and other B group vitamins. “Our study found that folic acid use before pregnancy reduced the risk of childhood brain tumours by around 30%,” study leader Professor Milne said. “There also appeared to be some effect when taken after conception, but it was not as strong as when taken before pregnancy.”

“We know this is biologically plausible, as a mother’s store of folate is used rapidly from conception in keeping DNA healthy as it replicates and in fuelling the rapid development of brain cells in the fetus. There are likely to be many causes of childhood brain tumours and we are hopeful that folic acid supplements may be one way to reduce the risk as well as providing other established benefits to the developing baby.

The Role of Vitamin D In Brain Tumors

Vitamin D deficiency that occurred before birth may have set the stage for brain tumor formation later in life. Vitamin D deficiency during gestation causes long-term effects on brain development (Levenson CW et al 2008). Of course Vitamin D remains important after birth, as it activates chemical pathways, in particular the sphingomyelin pathway, which kills glioblastoma cells (Magrassi L et al 1998). Vitamin D3, the chemical form of vitamin D made in the skin and sold as a nutritional supplement, calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D), the active form of vitamin D, and various chemical analogs and metabolites of vitamin D, have all been shown to inhibit growth and trigger apoptosis in neuroblastoma and glioma cell … which means they reverse the condition.

Another data analysis from Spain revealed a direct correlation between latitude and brain cancer incidence. The higher the latitude, that is the further from the equator someone lives, the greater their risk for brain cancer (Grant WB et al 2007). The  further people live from the equator, the lower their vitamin D levels (Genuis SJ et al 2009).

The Vitamin E Connection To Brain Cancer

Vitamin E is another antioxidant of particular interest in connection with brain cancer. According to a 2005 study, alpha-tocopherol-succinate enhances chemotherapy treatment of drug resistant glioblastoma cells, increasing effectiveness (Kang YH et al 2005).

A researcher from Tufts University described the use of vitamin E in treating glioblastoma multiforme in a 2004 article in the Journal of Nutrition. “Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans and resists all forms of therapy. Vitamin E (succinate) induces apoptosis in glioblastoma cells in a dose-related manner; we find that a 48-h exposure to 50 micromol/L vitamin E results in a 15% increase in apoptosis in the glioblastoma cells over control. Pretreatment with vitamin E may have a potential role in sensitizing glioblastoma to radiotherapy” (Borek C 2004).

Where Selenium Fits In

Selenium is another antioxidant that patients with brain tumors should consider. Many oncologists fear that any nutritional supplement classified as an antioxidant will interfere with the ability of radiation or chemotherapy to kill cancer cells. Though this theory sounds logical, there is little published evidence to support it. In the case of selenium, a 2004 paper in the journal Anticancer Research, reports a “radiosensitizing effect” on glioma cells (Schueller P et al 2004). Exposing brain cancer cells to selenium makes them more sensitive to, and more likely to die after, radiation therapy.

Selenium also inhibits growth and invasion, and induces apoptosis in various types of brain tumor cells, including malignant cell lines (Sundaram N et al 2000, Rooprai HK et al 2007).

Now Let’s Look At Diet’s

The Ketogenic Diet: The Ketogenic Diet is a very high fat, high protein, and extremely low carbohydrate diet typically used to treat epilepsy (Porta N et al 2009). Without carbohydrates, the body shifts from using glucose to ketones for energy. Healthy brain cells can utilize either glucose or ketones. Brain tumor cells can only burn glucose. The theory is that switching to ketones for energy starves brain tumor cells.

A 2007 study tested this theory on mice implanted with malignant brain tumors. The treatment group was fed a drink high in fat and protein that was designed to cause ketosis in children with epilepsy, and the control group was fed a low fat high carbohydrate diet. The ketone-producing diet decreased growth of the brain tumors from 35 to 65%, depending on the tumor line, and significantly enhanced health and survival compared to the control group, which was on the low fat, high carbohydrate diet (Zhou W et al 2007).

In 1995 doctors from Case Western Reserve reported treating two young girls suffering from astrocytomas with low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets. One of the girls had a favorable clinical response without reported disease progression for 12 months at the time of publication (Nebeling LC et al 1995). In April 2010, a case report was published describing an older female patient treated for glioblastoma multiforme with an initial 2-day water fast followed by a ketogenic diet and then simply a caloric-restricted diet. The tumor regressed during treatment, getting smaller on subsequent scans from January until July, at which point the patient stopped following the diet. The tumor returned ten weeks later (Zuccoli G et al 2010).

At this point the evidence supporting the management of brain cancer through a ketogenic diet is intriguing, and the risks are minimal (Seyfried TN et al 2010).

Caloric Restriction: Caloric restriction also appears to slow brain tumor growth. A 2002 study reported experiments on mice with brain tumors. Compared to mice that were not restricted in their food intake, the brain tumors in mice on a calorie-restricted diet grew slower, were less dense, and displayed less angiogenesis (building new blood vessels to feed the tumor). The tumor cells in the caloric-restricted mice were more likely to undergo apoptosis (Mukherjee P et al 2002).

A July 2010 paper confirmed the benefit in mice with glioblastoma multiforme. Caloric restriction was effective in reducing malignant brain tumor growth and invasion (Shelton LM et al 2010). Caloric restriction, although it may put the body into ketosis, is thought to act differently than the ketogenic diet. Hunger puts a mild stress on the body. Mild stress is, in turn, hypothesized to create a hormetic reaction awakening protective mechanisms within the body, stimulating the individual cells to fight the cancer (Kouda K et al 2010).

Researchers at Boston College are now investigating the simultaneous implementation of both of these dietary strategies by using a caloric-restricted ketogenic diet against brain cancer (Seyfried TN et al 2008).

So, if you are reading this article as a parent with a child with a brain tumor, there are a wide variety of things you might do to help your child make the best recovery possible. The key message that we wish to bring to your attention though is about prevention, because making sure you follow these simple practices every day, by using products in the home as recommended by the Savvy Team, will surely give your child the best possible start to a healthy life.


Like what you've read?
Subscribe to our 'BE SAVVY' Updates!

Like what you've read?

Subscribe to our 'BE SAVVY' Updates!

As a subscriber to the Be Savvy Updates, you'll receive regular tips to help you reach your wellness goals.

 Great to have you with us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *