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Childhood cancer survival statistics

Survival statistics for childhood cancer are presented here. There are data by cancer type, trends over time and about the impact of improved survival.

The latest survival statistics available for most childhood cancer the UK is 2006-2010 but please note that some data in this section are older and newer data are coming soon. Find out more about the coding and counting of this data.

Overall survival

Considerable improvements in treatments mean that for every ten children diagnosed with cancer, almost eight (78%) will survive for five years or more, compared with just three in ten (28%) in the late 1960s (Figure 3.1). 

Survival does not decrease greatly beyond five years from diagnosis and 73% of children are expected to survive for at least ten years. The vast majority of these long-term survivors will be cured of their cancer, though intensive treatments mean that some groups of survivors experience higher death rates beyond 25 years from diagnosis compared with the general population.

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Read more about survival in adults.

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Five-year survival by type of cancer

Survival varies greatly according to the type of childhood cancer diagnosed. Five-year survival among children diagnosed during 2001-2005 ranges from just 44% for ‘other’ gliomas (mainly unspecified gliomas) to 99% for retinoblastomas (Figure 3.2).1

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Trends over time

Survival has increased for all diagnostic groups since the 1960s, but by varying amounts and at different points in time (Figure 3.3). 

chart showing childhood cancer survival

The advent of combination chemotherapy in the late 1960s and 1970s brought about large increases in survival for many childhood cancers.

Leukaemia showed the largest increase in five-year survival during this time, from just 9% in 1966-1970 to 61% in 1981-1985, with much of this increase being attributed to improvements in treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (with the most of this improvement between 1966 and 1975) and hepatic tumours (with most of this increase occurring in the 1990s).

In the 1980s, SIOPEL clinical trials led to new treatment regimes for hepatic tumours, and five-year survival increased from 33% in 1981-1985 to 65% in 1991-1995.

Retinoblastoma has consistently had the highest survival of all the childhood cancers over the last four decades; even so, five-year survival still improved from 86% in 1966-1970 to 99% in 2001-2005.

The ACCIS project has enabled a detailed analysis of survival from children’s cancers in Europe. For all childhood cancers diagnosed in the period 1988-1997, five-year survival was highest in Northern Europe (77%) and lowest in the Eastern region (62%); survival for the British Isles was roughly in the middle at 71%.2

Northern Europe has the highest survival for the majority of diagnostic groups; of notable exception are lymphomas and SNS tumours, which are highest in Western Europe. Eastern Europe has the lowest survival for all of the diagnostic groups except carcinomas and melanomas.

Explore the proportion of children still alive at five years from diagnosis for cancers diagnosed in successive time periods during 1966 and 2005.

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section reviewed 01/11/11
section updated 01/11/11

Impact of improved survival

At least 15,000 more children have survived for at least ten years after being diagnosed with cancer than would have done if survival had remained the same (Figure 3.4).3

Figure 3.4: Increase in the Number of Children (aged 0-14) Alive Ten Years After Their Cancer Diagnosis, Great Britain, 1971-2010

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Actual number of children who survived their disease for at least ten years compared with the number that would have survived for ten years if survival had remained the same.

section reviewed 19/11/14
section updated 19/11/14

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References for Childhood cancer survival

  1. Stiller C, ed. Childhood Cancer in Britain: Incidence, survival, mortality. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2007
  2. Sankila R, Martos Jimenez MC, Miljus D, et al. Geographical comparison of cancer survival in European children (1988-1997): report from the Automated Childhood Cancer Information System project. Eur J Cancer 2006;42:1972-80.
  3. Calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK using data from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at the National Registry of Childhood Tumours. Personal communication Charles Stiller, 2014.

 

Updated: 19 November 2013