Cure Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer Facts

20029-351Childhood cancer is more common than many may realize. Please use this fact sheet to arm yourself with knowledge – and spread the word – about childhood cancer.


  • The incidence of childhood cancer is on the increase, averaging 0.6% increase per year since mid 1970’s resulting in an overall increase of 24% over the last 40 years
  • 1 in 285 children were diagnosed with cancer in 2014
  • Every year nearly 16,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer
  • More than 40,000 children undergo cancer treatment each year
  • The average age at diagnosis is 6 years old, while adults’ average age for cancer diagnosis is 66
  • Childhood cancer is not one disease – there are 16 major types of pediatric cancers and over 100 subtypes.
  • The causes of most childhood cancers are unknown. At present, childhood cancer cannot be prevented.


  • The average 5 year survival rate for childhood cancers when considered as a whole is 83%.
  • Cancer survival rates vary not only depending upon the type of cancer, but also upon individual factors attributable to each child.
  • Survival rates can range from almost 0% for cancers such as DIPG, a type of brain cancer, to as high as 90% for the most common type of childhood cancer known as Acute Lymphoma Leukemia (ALL).
  • The average survival rate not including children with ALL is 80%.
  • In 2010 there were 379,112 childhood cancer survivors in the United States.
  • Approximately 1 in 530 young adults between the ages of
 20 years and 39 years is a survivor of childhood cancers.
  • On average, one in every four elementary schools has a child with cancer.
  • The average high school has two students who are pediatric cancer patients or survivors.

Pediatric Cancer 5-Year Observed Survival Rates for 2 Time Periods, Ages Birth to 19 Years

The table below contrasts the estimated 5-year survival rates for various types of childhood cancers for the 1975-1979 and 2002-2009 time periods. It should be noted the survival rates listed below reflect general rates and in no way are a representation of an anticipated actual survival outcome for any individual child.


Long Term Health-Effects Associated with Treatments & Survival

  • 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 the cancer or more commonly, the result of its treatment. 1/3 rd. will suffer severe and chronic side effects; 1/3rd will suffer moderate to severe health problems; and 1/3rd will suffer slight to moderate side effects.


  • Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease among children.
  • About thirty five percent of children diagnosed with cancer will die within 30 years of diagnosis.
  • On average, about 17% of children die within 5 years of diagnosis. Among those children that survive to five years from diagnosis, 18% will die within 30 years of diagnosis.
  • Those that survive the five years have an eight times greater mortality rate due to the increased risk of liver and heart disease and increased risk for reoccurrence of the original cancer or of a secondary cancer.
  • There are 71 potential life years lost on average when a child dies of cancer compared to 17 potential life years lost for adults.

Treatment, Research, Funding

  • Since 1980, only three drugs, two used in the treatment of ALL, teniposide (1980) and clofarabine (2004),  and Unituxin (dinutuximab), recently approved in March, 2015 for use in high risk neuroblastoma,  been approved in the first instance for use in children and only four more new drugs have been approved for use by both adults and children. Since 1980, fewer than 10 drugs have been developed for use in children with cancer –-including those specifically for children and those for both children and adult–compared with hundreds of drugs that have been developed specifically for adults. Equally important, for many of the childhood cancers, the same treatments that existed in the 1970’s continue without change as of 2014.
  • The average cost of a stay in a hospital for a child with cancer is $40,000 per stay.
  • On average, pediatric hospitalizations for cancer cost almost five times as much as hospitalizations for other pediatric conditions.
  • Less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s research budget is allocated to research aimed at solving childhood cancers.
  • Prostate cancer (patient average age at diagnosis, 66 years), receives more research funding from NCI than all childhood cancers (patient average age at diagnosis, 6 years).

Sources: CAC2 Childhood Cancer Fact Library

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