Research Scientist

Childhood Cancer

shutterstock_76478602Over 90% of all cancers are caused by environmental factors; fewer than 10% are genetic. (WHO)

This means that childhood cancer is often preventable. The good news is over the past 50 years, significant advances in treatment have resulted in improved childhood cancer survival rates. The bad news is the number of children being diagnosed with cancer is on the rise.


Each year, approximately 15,300 American children – about 43 a day-- are diagnosed with cancer. Although more children die from accidents, pediatric cancers continue to be the leading cause of death by disease for all children under the age of 20. (CureSearch)

  • Childhood cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death among children and adolescents (ages 1-19 years) in the United States, although cancer among children is rare. An estimated 15,590 children and adolescents ages 1-19 years were diagnosed with cancer and 1,780 died of the disease in the United States in 2018. (CDC)
  • In 2018, approximately 10,590 children under the age of 15 were diagnosed with cancer. (NCI)
  • The relative five-year survival rate for children with cancer is 83.4% and 84.6% for adolescents (NCI)
  • The average age of children diagnosed is six.
  • More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year.  (CureSearch)
  • Three out of five who survive children’s cancer suffer late effects, such as infertility, heart failure and secondary cancers.
  • There are approximately 350,000 adult survivors of children’s cancer in the United States. - That equates to 1 in 640 adults ages 18-45.
  • The relative five-year survival rate for children with cancer under 20 is 81.3% (NCI)
  • Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer.(NIH)
  • Tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world today.  It causes 80%-90% of all lung cancer deaths, and about 30% of all cancer deaths in developing countries. (WHO)
  • Between 1975 and 2007: Acute lymphocytic leukemia has increased 42.9%, brain cancer and nervous system cancers in children is up 40.6% and testicular cancer is up 66% in adolescents (NCI)
  • People of all ages, ethnic and socio-economic groups are affected by cancer, which remains the number one cause of death by disease in children. Forty years ago, the overall survival rate was 10 percent.  Today, the rate is nearly 80 percent, except for many rare cancers which have a lower survival rate. The rate at which childhood cancer is diagnosed has not declined in almost 20 years. (NCI)
  • From 2001-2003, the following numbers of children ages 0-19 were diagnosed with cancer in geographic areas of the United States.   
    Northeast        7,676
    Midwest           9,011
    South             11,082
    West                 8,677
    TOTAL            36,446

    The prevalence of childhood cancer has increased by 29.4 percent between 1975 and 2007. (NCI)

 National Pediatric Cancer Foundation

  • 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer.
  • 43 children per day or 15,780 children per year are expected to be diagnosed with cancer.
  • More than 95% of childhood cancer survivors will have a significant health-related issue by the time they are 45 years of age. These health-related issues are side-effects of either cancer or more commonly, the result of its treatment.
  • Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease among children.
  • Since 1980, fewer than 10 drugs have been developed for use in children with cancer. Only three drugs (Teniposide and Clofarabine, and Unituxin for use in high-risk neuroblastoma) have been approved for use in children. Only four additional new drugs have been approved for use by both adults and children.
  • The average cost of a stay in a hospital for a child with cancer is $40,000.
  • Only 4% of federal government cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer.

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Last updated 06-19-2019

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