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Childhood Cancer Is On the Rise – and So Are Survival Rates

Childhood cancer may be on the rise, but so are the survival rates for leukemia, according to two recent studies in the Lancet. The studies also found that cancers in children are more likely to be caused by genetic predisposition compared to adults with cancer.

The evidence that childhood cancer is increasing may be due to factors such as a better understanding on how to diagnose cancer in children, so there is hope. However, researchers note that despite the rarity of childhood cancer, it’s still a significant cause of death in children.

Is Childhood Cancer On the Rise?

Working for the International Agency for Research on Cancer, researchers found that the rate of age-specific cancer diagnoses in children ages 14 and under increased from 120 to 140.6 per million person-years compared to the 1980s. The most common types of cancer diagnosed among these children were leukemia, followed by brain tumors and lymphomas.

Dr. Philippe Autier from the International Prevention Research Institute commented that the adoption by low- and middle-income countries of affordable, locally adapted, multidisciplinary management programs is the most important factor to improving the survival rates in leukemia.

Using data collected between 2001 and 2010, the researchers found that teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 had an age-specific incident rate of 158.3 per million person-years. In this group lymphomas were the most common diagnosis, followed by epithelial tumors and melanoma.

Survival Rates for Leukemia Are Improving

A team led by Audrey Bonaventure, MD, found substantial improvements in survival from childhood acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in most countries during the period 1995-2009.

The probability of surviving at least 5 years after diagnosis for children with AML was as high as 90% in some nations. Children between the ages of 1 and 5 had the highest survival rates.