Find out all the childhood cancer facts and statistics for those aged 0-14 years in the UK.

  • Childhood cancer is rare – around 1,900 new cases are diagnosed every year in the UK (in children aged 0-14 years)
  • This means that around one child in 500 will develop some form of cancer by the age of 14 years
  • Childhood cancers account for 0.5% of all cancers in the UK
  • Cancer occurs more commonly in boys than girls. This varies by tumour type; the most striking excess is in lymphomas, which boys are more than twice as likely to develop. In the UK between 2015-2017 there were 870 new cancer cases in girls compared to 1,000 in boys per year. This means that 54% of children’s cancer cases in the UK are boys, compared to 46% for girls
  • In Britain, childhood cancer incidence rates increased by 38% between 1966-2000. Some of this increase is thought to be due to improvements in diagnosis and registration
  • The childhood cancer rate in the UK is the lowest in Europe, and one of the lowest of all Western industrialised countries. Australia and the US have some of the highest rates. The reasons for this variation are not clear

Different types of childhood cancer are more common at different ages.

Some types of cancer – including embryonal tumours (such as neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma and Wilms’ tumour) and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) – occur most commonly in the under-5s.

Other cancers, such as bone tumours, are very rare in younger children, increasing in incidence with age and peaking in adolescence.

  • Around 250 children in the UK, aged 0-14 years, lose their lives to cancer every year
  • In addition, around 50 young adults (aged 15-19 years) die every year from cancers diagnosed before their 15th birthday
  • In the UK, cancer (excluding benign, uncertain and unknown behaviour brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours) is the most common cause of death in children and accounts for around a fifth of all deaths in boys and girls aged 1-14 (19% and 20%, respectively).
  • The most common causes of cancer death in children are malignant brain tumours, other central nervous system (CNS) and intracranial tumours (34%), followed by leukaemia.more lives than any other childhood cancer, accounting for more than a third of all childhood cancer deaths in the UK,
  • In the UK, cancer (excluding benign, uncertain and unknown behaviour brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours) is the most common cause of death in women aged 15-24 and accounts for around 16% of all deaths in this group. For men aged 15-24 cancer is the fourth most common cause of death, accounting for 9% of all deaths in this group, although it is the most common cause of death from the disease.

The past few decades have seen dramatic improvements in the outlook for children diagnosed with cancer.

Fifty years ago, three-quarters of children diagnosed with cancer died; today more than three-quarters survive:

  • More than 8 in 10 (82%) children diagnosed with cancer in Great Britain survive their disease for five years or more (2006-10).
  • A child who is still alive five years after diagnosis is generally considered to be cured but some children do relapse (and die) after five years. This means that the ten-year survival rate is slightly lower than the five-year rate (by around 7%)
  • By the end of 2012 it was estimated that there were at least 33,000 people in the UK who are alive having previously been diagnosed with a childhood cancer and who survived their cancer for at least five years. This figure does not include data for young adults with cancer.

Survival rates vary considerably between different types of childhood cancer and by age and gender (figures quoted below are five-year rates):

  • Childhood 5-year survival rate of retinoblastoma in England is 99%. Survival can be at the expense of losing an eye, or if not the eye, then the vision in the affected eye. Sometimes retinoblastoma is bilateral (both eyes) – and vision in both eyes may be lost.
  • Lymphomas have a high overall survival rate of 91%; within this, survival from Hodgkin lymphoma is 96%, and from non-Hodgkin lymphoma 88%
  • In UK young adult men, 5-year relative survival for Hodgkin lymphoma is 93.5% and for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 77.1%. In UK young adult women, 5-year relative survival for Hodgkin lymphoma is 94.6% and for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 79.3%.
  • Leukaemia has an overall survival rate of 88%; within this, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common form, has a survival rate of 92% and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), 70%
  • Brain tumours have an overall survival rate of 75%, but because they are one of the most common tumour types, they account for the highest number of deaths. There are a number of different types of brain tumours; some have a reasonably high survival rate whilst others still have a very poor outlook
  • Of the main childhood cancer types, neuroblastoma (67%) and bone tumours (65%) have the worst outlook. Young adult UK 5-year relative survival rates for bone tumours are 55.8% for both males and females. They have among the worst survival outlook compared to other cancers. Childhood 5-year survival rates in England for neuroblastoma and bone tumours are 67% and 65% respectively. They have the worst survival outlook compared to other cancers.