The children who participated in a painting competition organised by Vasantha Memorial Trust at Rosary Matriculation School in Santhome here also received a lesson on cancer and its causes.

The 262 children, some in their school uniform, tagged along with their parents on Sunday morning for the contest on the theme ‘Let tomorrow be cancer free.’ In the one hour that they got, the youngsters spurred their imagination and the results were interesting. There were collages on the ill-effects of tobacco and drinking. Some had ‘stick men’ who spoke about the problems associated with cancer.

As the children awaited the results, J. Ramanathan, founder trustee and oncologist, held a slide show for the children on the causes of cancer. Smoking, drinking and eating junk food without exercising were sure ways of courting cancer, he told the children.

“Each organ is like a classroom and cancer cells are like naughty children in the class. What happens if your teacher never paid attention to the mischievous student? He will become a bully. That is what the cancer cells do if they are not taken care of,” he explained. Students from about 30 schools participated in the competition. During the contest, the trust’s volunteers engaged the parents in sessions on cancers of the various organs.

Dr. Ramanathan later cleared their doubts in a joint session before the prize distribution. He urged the parents to ensure that their girl children were vaccinated for Human Papillomavirus between the ages of 11 and 13 to help prevent cervical cancer. A parent wanted to know if it was okay to vaccinate the child after the age of 13. Dr. Ramanathan explained that in the West since more children were sexually active by the time they were 15 years old, it was decided to immunise girls before they were 13 years old.