Childhood Cancer Facts

Over 40 children and adolescents under age 20 are diagnosed with cancer
every day in the U.S. — for reasons that are generally unknown.  

About 15,780 children and adolescents are diagnosed each year in the U.S.

The incidence of childhood cancer has been increasing by about 0.6% per year.

About 1 in every 285 kids will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20.


While the incidence rate of childhood cancer is lower than the incidence rate of other types of cancers, cancer is nonetheless a significant health issue for kids.  Consider these facts:

  • Cancer is the #1 cause of death by disease for children — more than asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined!
  • Overall, about 17% of kids diagnosed with cancer will die within five years of the date of their diagnosis (i.e., overall, about an 83% five-year survival rate).
  • Only about 68% of kids diagnosed with cancer will survive 30 years from the date of their diagnosis.  (This is because about 18% of the five-year survivors will not survive 30 years due to the original cancer, a secondary cancer, or other long-term effects.)
  • While kids diagnosed with the most common childhood cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia, have a five-year survival rate of over 90%, many other childhood cancers have survival rates well below this (e.g., sarcomas; certain brain/central nervous system cancers; neuroblastoma and ganglioneuroblastoma; hepatic tumors; and acute myeloid leukemia (AML)).
  • The overall survival rate of children with a variety of solid tumors including sarcomas is worse than that for children with other childhood cancers, and there has not been a significant improvement in the survival rates for most of these children over the past two decades.
  • For children with recurrent or metastatic neuroblastoma, osteosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma, the overall survival rate is below 30%.
  • Children who die from cancer lose, on average, 71 years of life.
  • Nearly all childhood cancer survivors will experience at least one chronic health problem by age 45; about 80% will experience a life-threatening, serious or disabling chronic condition.
  • Long-term side effects from treatment may include: secondary cancers; cognitive impairments; cardiovascular disease; respiratory issues; physical disabilities; psycho-social issues; and damage to the immune system, reproductive system, central nervous system, hearing and vision, among other health issues.
  • Childhood cancers can be difficult to diagnose; there are no known effective screening tests, and symptoms often mimic other common childhood diseases.



Sources and related articles

Pediatric Solid Tumor Genomics and Developmental Pliancy (Oncogene)

Childhood Cancer Survivors Found to Have Significant Undiagnosed Disease as Adults (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)

Clinical Ascertainment of Health Outcomes Among Adults Treated for Childhood Cancer (The Journal of the American Medical Association)

Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer–for health professionals (PDQ®) (National Cancer Institute)

Late Mortality Among 5-Year Survivors of Childhood Cancer: A Summary From the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (Journal of Clinical Oncology)

Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (National Cancer Institute)

Childhood Cancer Survivors Have Significant Chronic Disease  (CNN)

Child Cancer Survival Imperiled by Lack of New Drugs (Bloomberg)

Cancer ‘Always in the Back of my Mind’ for 3-time Survivor (CNN)

Childhood and Adolescent Cancer Statistics, 2014 (CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians)

SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2010 (National Cancer Institute)

Improved Survival for Children and Adolescents With Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Between 1990 and 2005: A Report from the Children’s Oncology Group (Journal of Clinical Oncology)

Childhood Leukemia Survival Rates Reach 90 Percent (U.S. News)

Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (Medscape)