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Teenage & Young Adult (TYA) cancers

Around 2,200 15 to 24-year-olds are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK.

This age group is referred to as ‘teenage and young adult’ or ‘TYA’.

TYA cancers bridge the gap between paediatric and adult oncology: many of the childhood cancers no longer feature and adult cancers begin to make up a significant proportion of the overall cancer burden. For more statistics specific to childhood cancers, take a look at our Facts & Figures page.

Teenage cancer Incidence

Although relatively rare, compared with cancer in adults, cancer is more common in TYA than in children.

Cancer statistics for adults are generally classified according to the site of the tumour in the body, such as lung, bowel, breast. TYA cancers, however, are more appropriately classified using a system that also takes into account the type of cell and tissue from which the cancer originates. This system is similar, but not identical, to the system used for the classification of childhood tumours.

  • Lymphoma is the most common cancer in this age group, accounting for more than 20% of cases. Next most common is carcinoma (of the thyroid, cervix, ovary, bowel or breast)
  • Although making up a smaller proportion of cases overall, the incidence rate of CNS tumours is the same in childhood and TYA
  • Germ cell tumours become much more common, with the majority of cases being testicular
  • Bone tumours are more than twice as common in TYA as in childhood.

Teenage cancer Survival

Survival from TYA cancer is improving. More than 80% of TYAs diagnosed with cancer in the UK now survive for at least five years.

There is considerable variation in survival between the different diagnostic groups. Bone tumours and soft tissue sarcomas have the lowest survival overall – with a five-year survival of 56% and 61% respectively.

Survival is significantly lower in TYAs than in children for several cancer types, including bone tumours and soft tissue sarcomas.

The difference in survival is particularly marked in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), which has a five-year survival rate of 92% in children and 61% in TYA.

The TYA group also fare worse with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), which has a survival rate of 69% in children and 57% in TYA. In ALL, and to a lesser extent AML, 5-year survival decreases markedly with age from 0-49 years.

For brain tumours however, survival is higher in the TYA group (at 82 percent) than either the younger or the older age groups.

The reasons for these differences in survival are not fully understood but may be partly explained by factors relating to diagnosis, different treatment protocols and levels of participation in clinical trials.

TYA cancer Deaths

Cancer is the most common cause of death from disease in the TYA age group, accounting for around 310 deaths per year in the UK.

Brain tumours are responsible for the largest proportion of these deaths (19%), closely followed by the leukaemias, which account for around 18% of deaths. Bone tumours and lymphomas also account for a large proportion of deaths, at 15% and 12% respectively.

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