A seminal study by West Australian researchers has found a link between a parent's exposure to diesel exhaust and the risk of childhood brain tumours in their children.

Little is known about this leading cause of cancer death in children, but researchers from the University of Western Australia, co-ordinated by the Telethon Institute for Child Research, have made inroads with this new study.

WA Institute for Medical Research and lead researcher for the study Susan Peters said the results showed the need for more research into the effects of diesel exhaust. "The average age for a childhood brain tumour is five years old," she said. "So we looked at exposure to cancer-causing agents beginning around the time of conception or during pregnancy."

Dr Peters said diesel was a very topical issue because it had only recently been classified as a carcinogen by a peak international research body.

"Particulates in diesel exhaust can have the potency to make human cells cancerous," she said.

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