Facts About Pediatric Cancers

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Here are some facts about pediatric cancers in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Basic Facts About Pediatric Cancers

About 10,400 children under age 15 are diagnosed with cancer in the United States annually.

Cancer is an extraordinarily rare disease among children. The NCI averages that between one and two children develop cancer each year per 10,000 children in the United States.

Speaking broadly, survival rates among pediatric cancers have gone from under 20 percent in the 1960s to more than 80 percent today.

Nonetheless, cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death among children over the age of 1, with about 1,500 such deaths every year.

Cancer kills more children than muscular dystrophy, AIDS, asthma, juvenile diabetes and cystic fibrosis combined.

Common Diagnoses of Pediatric Cancers

The most commonly diagnosed pediatric cancer is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). About 2,900 children receive the diagnosis annually in the United States.

Leukemia and central nervous system cancers account for about half of all diagnosed pediatric cancers annually.

The 10 most commonly diagnosed pediatric cancers are:

  • Leukemia (acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia)
  • Central nervous system (CNS), brain and spinal cord tumors
  • Lymphomas, (including Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma)
  • Skin cancer and melanomas
  • Soft tissue tumors (including rhabdomyosarcoma)
  • Germ cell tumors
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Bone cancers (including osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma)
  • Renal cancer (including Wilms tumor)
  • Retinoblastoma

Causes of Pediatric Cancers

The causes of most pediatric cancers remain unknown. Children born with Down syndrome are at increased risk of developing leukemia. Otherwise, a genetic mutation can sometimes be identified that drives the cancer, but the reason for the mutation in almost all circumstances has not been determined. Other suspects include some form of exposure to ionizing radiation in the womb.

Research continues to look into other possible routes, including maternal diet during pregnancy, oral or other types of contraceptives, fertility drugs and possible viral exposures during pregnancy.

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