Childhood cancer cases up, deaths down

Childhood cancer cases up, deaths down

It's common for some of these immune cells to undergo spontaneous changes that could lead to cancer.

The American Cancer Society issued a comprehensive report Friday stating childhood cancer rates are on the rise. It is currently estimated that 187 per one million children will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20 in the United States. The cause of this increase is largely unknown, but can be contributed in part to an increase in detection rates through advances in medical technology such as the introduction of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Despite falling death rates by more than 50 percent since 1975, cancer remains the second-leading cause of death in pre-adolescent children. Recent statistics published in Cancer Facts & Figures 2014 estimate that 15,780 new cases of pediatric cancer will be diagnosed this year.  In comparison to cancer in adults, the prevalence of childhood cancer is rare. However, certain blood and lymphatic system cancers as well as cancers of the brain and central nervous system are predominantly found within pediatric populations.

The good news is that better treatment for childhood cancers is contributing to a decline in death rates. Medical centers that specialize in pediatric cancer treatment can offer intensive and interdisciplinary care for fast growing cancers as well as access to innovative clinical trials. This may be contributing to the steep decline in death rates for the most frequently diagnosed cancers in children (Acute lymphocytic leukemia) and adolescents (Hodgkin lymphoma).

Current developments in childhood cancer prevention are limited by the lack of known causes as well as available treatments. Jennifer Cullen, a cancer epidemiologist with the US Department of Defense, submitted an editorial in response to the American Cancer Society report. “We have seen successes for some cancers, but others remain incurable and untreatable,’’ she says. Cullen’s full editorial is being published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

In the face of these challenges, the American Cancer Society continues to advocate for federal funding to support cancer research in order to continue to improve the quality of care and treatment for children.

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