Treatment with protons is an increasingly favoured alternative to conventional therapy with X-rays in children with cancer. X-rays cause significant damage to healthy tissue and in children this damage often results in physical deformities, loss of vision or hearing and degradation of cognitive skills. Children are also more at risk of developing a second cancer later in life, caused by their early exposure to radiation. Both long and short term side effects have been demonstrated to be lower in these patients when they are treated with protons instead of X-rays.
Proton beam therapy is not currently used to treat childhood leukaemia or other blood cancers.