Childhood cancers are considered rare, but it is still important for parents and families to know about cancers that develop in children. While some adult cancers are related to environmental or lifestyle factors, childhood cancers typically occur due to DNA changes in cells, which can happen early in life and even before birth. 

Here are some of the latest childhood cancer statistics, according to the American Cancer Society:

  • In 2016, an estimated 10,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 15 were diagnosed with cancer.
  • Childhood cancers make up less than 1 percent of all cancers diagnosed each year.
  • In children ages 1 to 14, cancer is the second-leading cause of death behind accidents. Roughly 1,200 children under the age of 15 died of cancer in 2016. 

What is the survival rate of children with cancer? 

Parents researching childhood cancers statistics should not be alarmed. There have been significant advances in treatment of childhood cancers in the past few decades. Currently, more than 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer have a survival rate of 5 years or more. In the 1970s, the 5-year survival rate was only 58 percent. It's important to know that survival rates vary depending on the type of cancer and at what stage the cancer is diagnosed. 

Key pediatric cancer facts and survival rates: 

The most common type of childhood cancer is leukemia. Nearly one out of three child and teen cancer patients are diagnosed with some form of leukemia. The five-year survival rate for acute lymphocytic leukemia is 85 percent, while the survival rate for acute myelogenous leukemia is between 60 and 70 percent. 

Brain and spinal cord tumors are the second most-common cancers in children. These cancers account for roughly one in four childhood cancers. Three out of four children with brain tumors of all types survive at least five years after their diagnosis.

Are there any new cancer treatments for children? 

Childhood cancer research has progressed dramatically over the past 20 to 30 years. Chemotherapy was first used to treat leukemia in children. In 1948, medical researchers discovered that chemotherapy led to remission in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

Over time, combining chemotherapy with other treatment methods proved effective in improving survival rates for children, and lessened the potentially harmful side effects of cancer treatment in younger age groups. 

The field of pediatric oncology has grown immensely in the last decade. Pediatric oncologists are trained to treat children and also specialize in cancer treatment, as well as hematological diseases (blood disorders) that occur in children. 

Pediatric oncology facts:

  • The average age of diagnosis for children with cancer is five.
  • There are more than 200 pediatric cancer centers or clinics in the U.S., which specialize in treating children with cancer and blood disorders.
  • Research and developing new treatments is a big part of pediatric oncology. During a three-year pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship, doctors spend most of the final two years of the program involved in research.

Clinical trials involving child cancer patients 

When researching childhood cancer statistics, parents often have questions about clinical trials that involve children with cancer.

The Children's Oncology Group (COG) is a worldwide, nonprofit clinical trial cooperative group supported by the National Cancer Institute. COG hospitals treat 90% of children with cancer in the U.S. Pediatric cancer centers that are part of COG participate in clinical trials that are offered to patient candidates who meet certain qualifications. 

As a member of the Children's Oncology Group, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children has total access to the latest research and world-class treatments for children and teens with cancer or blood disorders. Our dedicated team of board-certified pediatric oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, pharmacists, nurses and certified clinical research coordinators work together to provide the best possible care for infants, children, adolescents and teenagers.

For more pediatric cancer facts and information about childhood cancers and blood disorders, talk to your child's doctor or pediatrician. For children of all ages, early detection is key for all childhood diseases and health issues.