Find out all the childhood cancer facts and figures 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 less than 1% of all cancers in the UK
  • In girls in the UK, there are around 850 new cancer cases in the UK every year (2014-2016)
  • In boys in the UK, there are around 1,000 new cancer cases in the UK every year (2014-2016)
  • The incidence of childhood cancer is on the rise in the UK, increasing by 15% between 1993-1995 and 2015-2017. Some of this increase is thought to be due to improvements in diagnosis and registration
  • For cancers in girls, age standardised incidence rates in the UK increased by 17% between 1993-1995 and 2014-2016. For cancers in boys, AS incidence rates in the UK increased by 13% between 1993-1995 and 2014-2016
  • Over the last decade in the UK (between 2004-2006 and 2014-2016), AS incidence rates for cancers in children (girls and boys combined) increased by 8%. In girls AS incidence rates increased by 9% and in boys rates remained stable
  • The highest incidence rates for all children’s cancers combined are in the under-fives for both sexes, with almost half (46%) of all cases in children being diagnosed in this age group (UK, 2014-2016). This pattern varies greatly by cancer type

 

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

Some types of cancer – including embryonal tumours (such as neuroblastomaretinoblastoma 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 240 children in the UK, aged 0-14 years, lose their lives to cancer every year
  • Cancer in children accounts for less than 1% of all cancer deaths in the UK (2014-2016)
  • In addition, around 210 children and young adults (aged 15-24 years) die every year from cancer
  • Malignant brain tumours, other central nervous system (CNS) and intracranial tumours account for more than a third of all childhood cancer deaths in the UK
  • Over the last decade, mortality rates for cancers in children have decreased by more than a quarter (27%) in the UK. Rates in boys have decreased by around a quarter (26%), and rates in girls have decreased by almost a third (29%)

 

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
  • 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
  • Around three-quarters (76%) of children diagnosed with cancer in Great Britain survive their disease for ten years or more (2001-05)
  • More than 8 in 10 (82%) children diagnosed with cancer in Great Britain survive their disease for five years or more (2006-10)
  • 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
  • Around 9 in 10 (91%) children diagnosed with cancer in Great Britain survive their disease for one year or more (2006-10)
  • Cancer survival is similar for children whatever age they are diagnoses
  • Survival for children’s cancers is improving and has more than doubled in the last 40 years in Great Britain
  • In the 1970s, more than a third of children diagnosed with cancer survived their disease beyond ten years, now it’s around three-quarters
  • At least 15,000 more children have survived their cancer than would have done if survival had remained as it was in the 1970s

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 90%; within this, survival from Hodgkin lymphoma is 96%, and from non-Hodgkin lymphoma 90%
  • Leukaemia has an overall survival rate of 86%; within this, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common form, has a survival rate of 90% and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), 65%
  • Brain tumours have an overall survival rate of 73%, 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 56% 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

These statistics are agreed by the Children and Young People with Cancer (CYPC) Coalition of UK Cancer Charities. (Oct 2019)