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Childhood Cancers by the Numbers

Should you or your children be worried?

When writing this story, one number came to mind first: 30. That's how many days you have this September to help promote Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Although the disease is (thankfully) very rare, a diagnosis can upend the life of a child—not to mention the family.

How uncommon is it? Should you or your children be worried? Here, We take a look at childhood cancer by the numbers. And for a first-person look at the disease, click here for our exclusive story: Here are the Signs of Childhood Cancer—From a Doctor Who Survived It.


The average age of children diagnosed with cancer is 6. This includes all types of cancer, diagnosed at any stage to children who are 0 to 19 years of age. Most of these diagnoses were leukemia, a type of blood cancer. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, was the rarest cancer diagnosis for children.


Cancer is the number one cause of death from disease in children (past infancy). The survival probability for a child diagnosed with cancer can vary, depending on the type of cancer and the stage in which it was diagnosed.


In 2018, 15,590 children and adolescents were diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. This includes children younger than 20 years of age and all forms of cancer. About 1 in every 100 cancer cases is pediatric cancer. Luckily, childhood cancer is rare and this may be because environmental factors usually don't have time to play a part in the disease for young children. The most common forms of cancer in children and adolescents are leukemia, lymphoma, and central nervous system tumors, such as brain cancer.


About 1,780 children died of cancer in the U.S. in 2018. This number includes children and adolescents 0 to 19 years of age and takes into account all types of cancer. The outlook for children diagnosed with cancer has improved over the years due to advancements in diagnosis and treatment options.


There are 420,000 childhood cancer survivors living in the U.S. and many more worldwide. About 1 in every 640 adults in the U.S. between the ages of 20 and 39 survived some form of childhood cancer malignancy.

Two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors live with at least one chronic condition for the rest of their lives, which may be the result of the disease or the treatment. These conditions may include heart damage, infertility, lung damage, a second cancer diagnosis, or growth defects.


A child who is born in the U.S. has a .24% chance of developing some form of childhood cancer before turning 15 years of age. This means on average, about 1 in 408 children in the country will be diagnosed with cancer before turning 15.


Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) accounts for approximately 80% of leukemia cases in children up to 15 years of age. Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is less common and is responsible for about 15% of leukemia cases in children who are 15 years of age or younger.


In about 8% of childhood cancer cases, the child was born with genetic changes that increased the risk of developing cancer. In children and adolescents, cancer is less likely to be caused by environmental or behavior factors. Scientists are working hard to learn more about how these genetic mutations occur so they can diagnose childhood cancers earlier.


Childhood cancer only makes up 1% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and there are approximately 268,600 women diagnosed with breast cancer in the country annually.


Brain and spinal cancers account for 26% of childhood cancer diagnoses. Brain tumors are more common and usually begin in the cerebellum or brain stem, the lower part of the brain. The treatment and survival rate for these cancers depends on the tumor location, advancement, and treatment available.

10 to 20

Children diagnosed with Down syndrome are 10 to 20 times more likely to develop leukemia than children who don't have it. Down syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs when an extra copy of chromosome 21 is present. This genetic mutation may be what links this syndrome to childhood cancer.


Leukemias accounted for 30% of all childhood cancer diagnoses in children and adolescents. These are cancers of the bone marrow and blood. Since acute leukemias grow quickly, they often have to be treated with chemotherapy.


There are more than 12 types of childhood cancers and hundreds of subtypes, including retinoblastoma, sarcoma, and hepatoblastoma. Rare types of cancer account for about 30% of childhood diagnoses and most pediatric cancers are more aggressive than adult cancers.


About 100,000 hospital stays were attributed to childhood cancer treatments in 2005. In most cases, children stayed in the hospital to receive treatment for different types of leukemias and brain tumors.


In 2012, the five-year survival rate was 92% for children up to 14 years of age who were diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This figure drastically increased over the years, from a 57% five-year survival rate in 1975. This improvement can be attributed to advancements in technology, which have helped with more effective treatments and faster detection.


The average age of death for a child who passes from cancer is 11 years of age. The life expectancy of the average American adult in 2016 was 78 years of age. Therefore, childhood cancer is responsible for about 67 years of life lost for children who die from any form of this disease.


The average five-year survival rate for pediatric cancer is 84.1%. This rate has increased substantially over the past 40 years. There was only a 58% average five-year survival rate for childhood cancer in 1970. However, survival rates for rare forms of pediatric cancer can be much lower due to the lack of research and effective treatment options.

$198 million

In 2015, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) spent $198 million on childhood cancer research. The Institute had an annual budget of $4.93 billion in 2015, so about 4% of the budget was set aside for pediatric cancer research. This money was used to help develop better cancer detection and treatments for children. And to ensure your house is safe for you and the entire family, don't miss this essential list of 100 Ways Your Home Could be Making You Sick.

Kelly Hernandez
Kelly Hernandez is a health and wellness writer and certified personal trainer. Read more about Kelly