Children’s cancer death rates drop by a quarter in 10 years

Cancer Research UK

The rate of children dying from cancer has dropped by 24 per cent in the last decade*, according to new figures published by Cancer Research UK.

The latest figures show death rates for all cancers in children aged 14 and under have fallen from around 30 deaths per million in 2004 to almost 23 deaths per million today*.

“We need to build on the progress we’ve already made by continuing to fund research into children’s cancers, including developing better medicines that also reduce any long-term side effects.” - Professor Richard Gilbertson

The number of children dying from cancer each year in the UK has dropped from around 330 a decade ago to around 260 in the latest figures**. But this still means around five children die from cancer every week in the UK**. And, for many children being treated for cancer, the long-term side effects mean there remains an urgent need for kinder treatments.

Around 1,500 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK***. Overall survival for children’s cancers has tripled since the 1960s, and three quarters of children with cancer are now cured.

Much of this success is due to tackling childhood cancers by combining a number of different chemotherapy drugs. Cancer Research UK played a key role in the clinical trials that proved the benefits of these combined treatments, including a large international trial that has helped lead to liver cancer death rates falling by 26 per cent in the last decade. Research to improve imaging and radiotherapy techniques is also playing its part.

Professor Pam Kearns, director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit in Birmingham, said: “Although we’re losing fewer young lives to cancer, a lot more needs to be done. There are still children’s cancers where progress has been limited – such as brain and bone tumours.

“Cancer Research UK’s long-standing commitment to investing in clinical trials for children with cancer has been a major factor in developing today’s treatments and is pivotal to ongoing research that will offer new hope to the children and their families.

“Many children who survive cancer will live with the long-term side effects of their treatment that can have an impact throughout their adult lives, so it’s vital that we find less toxic and even more effective treatments.”

The new figures are announced as Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens opens nominations for its Star Awards – in partnership with TK Maxx, the UK’s largest corporate funder of children’s cancer research – which celebrate the courage of children in the UK who have been diagnosed with cancer.

TK Maxx’s support of Cancer Research UK’s Kids & Teens Star Awards is part of a wider partnership with the charity, which has raised over £22 million since 2004. Over £18 million of this has specifically supported research into children’s cancers.

Professor Richard Gilbertson, director of the Cambridge Cancer Centre and a senior group leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said: “Thanks to research, we’re helping more and more children survive cancer. But this work is not finished – better, kinder treatments must continue to be our target.

“We need to build on the progress we’ve already made by continuing to fund research into children’s cancers, including developing better medicines that also reduce any long-term side effects.”

To nominate someone for a Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens Star Award or to find out more about the campaign, visit our website.

ENDS

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Notes to Editor

*Annual average deaths for children’s cancers (aged 0-14) (All cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) including benign and uncertain or unknown behaviour brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours) in the UK 2011-2013

**Annual average age-standardised mortality rates for children’s cancers (aged 0-14) (All cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) including benign and uncertain or unknown behaviour brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours) in the UK between 2001-2003 and 2011-2013

***Annual average number of new cases for children’s cancers (aged 0-14) (All cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer), including benign and uncertain or unknown behaviour brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours) in the UK 2010-2012

Cancer Research UK compiles UK wide incidence data produced by the regional cancer registries in England, and the three national registries in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for our UK statistics but it means we have to wait until all of the data has been published by each country before we can compile and publish it.