Overview

Although childhood cancer is rare, it is the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States. In 2014, it was estimated that 15,780 children and adolescents in the United States ages 0 to 19 years were diagnosed with cancer and that 17% of those will die of the disease. That number will continue to increase, given that the incidence of childhood cancer has been increasing by an annual average of 0.6% since the mid-1970’s.

While survival rates for most childhood cancers have improved, the improvement has been especially dramatic for a few cancers, particularly acute lymphoblastic leukemia the most common childhood cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma which have seen survival rates improve from approximately 10% to 85% plus in recent decades.  Survival rates for less common cancers such as certain types of brain cancer and sarcomas are significantly lower.

Diagnosis

Childhood Cancer is on the increase, averaging 0.6% increase per year since mid 1970’s (1)
1 in 285 children are diagnosed with cancer (1)
43 children per day or 15,780 children per year are diagnosed with cancer (10,450 ages 0 to 14, and 5,330 ages 15 to 19) (1)
Average age at diagnosis is 6 years old, while adults’ average age is 66 (9)
There are 16 major types of pediatric cancers and over 100 subtypes.(1)

Survival

The average 5 year survival rate for childhood cancers when considered as a whole is 83%.(1,3)
Cancer survival rates vary not only depending upon the type of cancer, but also upon individual factors attributable to each child. (6)
Survival rates can range from almost 0% for cancers such as DIPG, a type of brain cancer, to as high as 90% for acute lymphoma leukemia (ALL), the most common type of childhood cancer. (1)
The average survival rate not including children with ALL is 80%. (1)
In 2010 there were 379,112 childhood cancer survivors in the United States. (1)
Approximately 1 in 530 young adults between the ages of 20 years and 39 years is a survivor of childhood cancers. (1)

Long Term Side-Effects Associated with Survival

More than 95% of childhood cancer survivors will have a significant health related issue by the time they are 45 years of age (2); these health related issues are side-effects of either the cancer or more commonly, its treatment. 1/3 rd. will suffer severe and chronic side effects; 1/3rd will suffer moderate to severe health problems; and 1/3rd will suffer slight to moderate side effects. (2)

Mortality

There are 71 life years lost on average when a child dies of cancer compared to 17 life years lost for adults. (1)
Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease among children. (4)
Thirty five percent of children diagnosed with cancer will die within 30 years of diagnosis. (8)
Among those children that survive to five years from diagnosis, 18% will die within 30 years of diagnosis. . (8)
Those that survive the five years have an eight times greater mortality rate due to the increased risk of liver and heart disease and increased risk for reoccurrence of the original cancer or of a secondary cancer. . (8)

Treatment, Research, Funding

Since 1980, only three new drugs, have been approved in the first instance for use in children including teniposide (1980) and clofarabine (2004), both used in the treatment of ALL, and dinutuximab (2015) to treat high-risk neuroblastoma. Additionally, only four more new drugs have been approved for use by both adults and children. All in all, it can be said that since 1980, less than 10 drugs have been developed for use in children – those specifically for children and those for both children and adults, compared to hundreds of drugs having been developed specifically for adults. Equally important, for many of the childhood cancers, the same treatments that existed in the 1970’s continue, without change as of 2014.(10)
The average cost of a stay in a hospital for a child with cancer is $40,000 per stay. (5)
On average, pediatric hospitalizations for cancer cost almost five times as much as hospitalizations for other pediatric conditions. (5)
For 2014, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) budget is $4.9 billion. It is anticipated that childhood cancer will receive 4% of that sum or $195 million. (7)
Prostate cancer (patient average age at diagnosis, 66 years), receives more research funding from NCI than all childhood cancers (patient average age at diagnosis, 6 years). (7)(1)

THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT INTENDED TO OFFER SPECIFIC STATISTICS REGARDING AN INDIVIDUAL PATIENT OR THE PATIENT’S SPECIFIC FORM OF CANCER AND IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR INFORMATION THAT MAY BE SOUGHT FROM A PHYSICIAN. IT IS MERELY INTENDED, BASED ON INFORMATION PRESENTLY AVAILABLE TO THE AUTHORS, TO BE A GOOD FAITH GENERAL PRESENTATION OF CHILDHOOD CANCER STATISTICS THAT MAY BE HELPFUL TO OTHERS SEEKING SUCH GENERAL INFORMATION.

Sources:

1 American Cancer Society, Childhood and Adolescent Cancer Statistics, 2014
2 St. Jude’s, (JAMA. 2013:309 [22]: 2371-2381)
3 American Cancer Society: Declining Childhood and Adolescent Cancer Mortality, Cancer 2014
4 National Vital Statistics Report, vol. 62.6, December 20, 2013
5 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), Statistical Brief #132, Pediatric Cancer Hospitalizations 2009
6 American Society of Clinical Oncology
7 The National Cancer Institute
8 Journal of the National Cancer Institute “Cause-Specific Late Mortality Among 5 Year Survivors”
9 CureSearch .org Cancer Statistics