Nearly 30% of the U.S. population is under the age of 20. In this age group: Approximately 12,400 are diagnosed with cancer each year. In 1998, about 2,500 died of cancer. About one in 300 boys and one in 333 girls will develop cancer before the age of 20.
The incidence or frequency that cancer is diagnosed, has risen since the 1970's for some types of childhood cancer, but rates have been fairly stable in more recent years.
The incidence of childhood cancer peaks in the first year of life. The incidence is higher for children under five and for those ages 15-19, and lower for children ages 5-14.
Infants: The incidence of childhood cancer peaks during the first year of life. The incidence of cancer during the first year of life is approximately the same for boys and girls. This is notable because for all other age groups, girls have a lower incidence of childhood cancer rates than boys.
Neuroblastoma is the most common type of infant cancer (28%), followed by leukemia's (17%) and central nervous system cancers (13%). Germ cell and soft tissue tumors each have incidence rates of about 6%. Infants often have a poorer prognosis than older children.
For instance, the 5-year survival rate in 1995 for all children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia was over 70%, but only 33% for infants. However, survival rates are highly variable based upon a number of factors—including age.
When diagnosed during the first year of life, children with neuroblastoma have a five year survival rate of 80%. However, those children diagnosed at age 1 year or older are found to have a five year survival rate of only 5%.
Research involving infant cancers is very important because it helps lead the advances in treating cancers in children diagnosed at all ages. For example, the study of retinoblastoma, and later of Wilms tumor, in infants has led to the discovery of two important tumor suppressor genes that are related to curing adult, as well as childhood cancers.
Adolescents: The rate of cancer diagnoses in children ages 15 to 19 is similar to that of children from birth to age 4 years. The incidence of diagnosis in these kids is substantially higher than it is for children ages 5 to 9 years and 10 to 14 years.
The most common types of cancer diagnosed in children ages 15 to 19 years are: Hodgkins disease (16.1%) Germ cell tumors (15.2%) Central nervous system tumors (10%) Non-Hodgkins lymphoma (7.6%) Thyroid cancer (7.2%) Malignant melanoma (7%) Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (6.4%) Survival Cancer is the most common disease-related cause of death for children ages 1 year of age to 20 years.
Cancer is the fourth most common cause of all deaths, after accidents, homicides, and suicides. However, death rates for most types of childhood cancer have declined dramatically since the 1970's. From 1975 to 1995, the mortality rate declined at a rate of 2.5% per year seeing an approximate 40% decline in childhood deaths related to cancer.
During this time, the incidence of childhood cancer increased by a marginal 0.8% per year. By 1995, research and new treatments had helped drop the mortality rate for childhood leukemia by a staggering 50% or 5% per year since 1975. This meant that in 1975 when the mortality rate for leukemia was approximately 84%, by 1995, the mortality rate had been lowered to 34%. In 1975 approximately 48% of all deaths from childhood cancer were due to central nervous system tumors, primarily found in the brain. By 1995, central nervous system cancers accounted for only 25% of all childhood cancer deaths.
The principal reason for the increased percentage in cure rates and the significant drop in mortality rates has come because of significant advances in research and treatments of childhood cancers—especially acute lymphocytic leukemia or “ALL.”
ALL accounts for one-third of all pediatric cancer cases. Without research, there would be no cure. Unfortunately, as you can see from the percentages, the battle is far from over.
Children with cancer and related blood disorders need your help. Without funding, research cannot continue and mortality rates will remain stagnant.
We are proud to say that five-year survival rates for childhood cancers are approximately 80%--however, this means that of every 100,000 children diagnosed with cancer today, nearly 20,000 will die.
Our mission is not over until that number drops to 0.