The Child Cancer Tooth Study

Study of Teeth from Children with Cancer

As an outgrowth of the Tooth Fairy Project, we RPHP conducted a study of Sr-90 in teeth of children with cancer (124 teeth were tested). Preliminary findings show average Sr-90 levels are considerably higher than those of healthy children.

The Radiation and Public Health Project’s (RPHP) Baby Teeth Study is the first US study to measure radioactivity in teeth since 1970. With our Childhood Cancer Study, we are comparing average radiation levels in children with cancer to those of healthy children. Once sufficient data is collected, we will be able to evaluate whether this radioactivity contributes to an increased risk of cancer. Over 4000 teeth from children without cancer have already been tested. Childhood cancer is relatively rare, which poses problems in terms of collecting teeth. The most effective way found so far is to identify these children through cooperation from hospital pediatric oncology units and support groups. RPHP has thus

  • Asked Florida hospitals and oncologists for tooth contributions (backed by a $25,000 grant from the Health Foundation of Southern Florida).
  • Asked all pediatric cancer hospital units in New York City and Philadelphia to make information on the tooth study available in treatment areas.
  • Enlisted actor Alec Baldwin to ask the New Jersey legislature to support collection and testing of teeth from children with cancer, (which it has done).
  • Enlisted mothers of children with cancer to encourage other parents to donate teeth

By the end of 2003, RPHP had received 106 baby teeth from children with cancer. While 72 of these teeth have been tested, accurate results are available for only 54 (the others are very small, and/or are decayed or browned, and leave little intact enamel for testing). These 54 teeth have an average Sr-90 concentration about 60% higher than children without cancer. This result is preliminary, but more teeth will make results significant.

In the first half of 2004, RPHP made a concerted effort to collect an additional 50 baby teeth from New Jersey children with cancer. RPHP National Coordinator Joseph Mangano and Governor James McGreevey of New Jersey announced at a press conference that the NJ state legislature awarded a $25.000 grant to RPHP to study radiation levels in baby teeth of New Jersey children with cancer. McGreevey’s remarks included a declaration that “we know that there is an environmental connection with cancer,” and praised the tooth study as one way to better understand this connection. The New Jersey initiative is part of a nationwide effort to collect teeth from children with cancer, and test them for levels of radioactive Strontium-90.

RPHP will eventually examine differences by type of cancer, by location, date and age of child. Right now, though, we need to concentrate on collecting teeth.

Email Joe Mangano if you can donate a tooth from a child with cancer, or if you would like to help us in the collection process.