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Childhood cancer survival statistics

One-, five- and ten-year survival statistics for childhood cancer by diagnostic group, age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data by geography and about the impact of improved survival.

Find out more about the coding and counting of this data.

 

One-, five- and ten-year survival

91% of children survive cancer (all childhood cancers combined) for at least one year, and this falls to 82% surviving for five years or more, as shown by actuarial survival for children diagnosed with cancer during 2006-2010 in Great Britain (Table 3.1).1,2

Table 3.1: Childhood Cancer, One-, Five- and Ten-Year Actuarial Survival, Children (Aged 0-14), Great Britain, 2001-2005 and 2006-2010

1-Year Survival (%) 5-Year Survival (%) 10-Year Survival (%)
Year of Diagnosis 2006-2010 2006-2010 2001-2005
Children 91 82 76

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Childhood cancer survival continues to fall slightly beyond five years after diagnosis. 76% of children survive their disease for ten years or more, as shown by actuarial survival for children diagnosed with cancer during 2001-2005 in Great Britain (Figure 3.1).1 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.3

Figure 3.1: Childhood Cancer, Actuarial Survival up to Ten Years after Diagnosis, Children (Aged 0-14), Great Britain, 2001-2005

child_surv_gb_bar_13510yr.swf

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Survival for childhood cancer is reported in Scotland and Northern Ireland,4,5 though it is difficult to make survival comparisons between countries due to different methodologies and criteria for including patients in analyses.

Survival varies greatly according to the type of childhood cancer diagnosed. For the broad diagnostic groups, ten-year actuarial survival for children diagnosed during 2001-2005 in Great Britain ranges from 99% for retinoblastoma to 57% for bone sarcoma (all subtypes combined) (Figure 3.2).1,2

Figure 3.2: Childhood Cancer Diagnostic Groups, Ten-Year Actuarial Survival, Children (Aged 0-14), Great Britain, 2001-2005

child_surv_gb_type.swf

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Read more about survival in adults.

section reviewed 20/01/15
section updated 20/01/15

 

By age

Five-year survival for all childhood cancers combined does not differ significantly between 0-4, 5-9 and 10-14 year-olds (Figure 3.3).6

Figure 3.3: Childhood Cancer, Five-Year Actuarial Survival, by Age, England, 2006

child_surv_eng_age.swf

Download this chart XLS (44KB) PPT (126KB) PDF (39KB)

section reviewed 20/01/15
section updated 20/01/15

Trends over time

Survival for cancer in children is improving overall. One-year actuarial survival for all childhood cancers combined has increased from 63% during 1971-1975 to 91% during 2006-2010 in Great Britain – an absolute survival difference of 28 percentage points (Figure 3.4).1,2 Most of this increase occurred during the 1970s and 1980s.

Figure 3.4: Childhood Cancer, One-, Five- and Ten-Year Actuarial Survival, Children (Aged 0-14), Great Britain, 1971-2010

child_surv_gb_trend.swf

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Five- and ten-year survival for all childhood cancers combined has increased by even greater amounts since the early 1970s (Figure 3.4).1,2 Five-year survival has increased from 40% during 1971-1975 to 82% during 2006-2010 in Great Britain – an absolute survival difference of 42 percentage points, while ten-year survival has increased from 36% during 1971-1975 to 76% during 2001-2005 – an absolute survival difference of 40 percentage points.

Ten-year survival has increased for all diagnostic groups since the early 1970s, but by varying amounts and at different points in time (Figure 3.5).2 A lot of the progress can be attributed to the advent of combination chemotherapy in the late 1960s and 1970s. For many diagnostic groups, improvements in survival coincide with eras of entry into clinical trials.7

Figure 3.5 : Childhood Cancer Diagnostic Groups, Ten-Year Actuarial Survival, Children (Aged 0-14), Great Britain, 1971-2005

child_surv_gb_type_trend.swf

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Leukaemia (all subtypes combined) has shown the largest increase in ten-year actuarial survival since the early 1970s, from 27% in 1971-1975 to 81% in 2001-2005 in Great Britain – an absolute survival difference of 54 percentage points (Figure 3.5).2 Hepatic tumours have also shown large increases in ten-year survival, from 14% in 1971-1975 to 64% in 2001-2005 (an increase of 50 percentage points). Retinoblastoma has consistently had the highest survival of all the childhood cancers over the last four decades; even so, ten-year survival has still improved from 87% in 1971-1975 to 99% in 2001-2005.

section reviewed 20/01/15
section updated 20/01/15

 

In Europe

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%.8

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.

section reviewed 20/01/15
section updated 20/01/15

 

Impact of improved survival

At least 15,000 more children have survived their cancer for at least ten years r than would have done if survival had remained as it was in the early 1970s (Figure 3.6).9

Figure 3.6: Increase in the Number of Children (aged 0-14) Alive Ten Years After Their Cancer Diagnosis, Great Britain, 1971-2010

child_moresurviving.png

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

 

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References for Childhood cancer survival

  1. National Cancer Intelligence Network. National Registry of Childhood Tumours Progress Report, 2012. Oxford: NRCT; 2013.
  2. Ten-year actuarial survival, children aged 0-14 years, Great Britain, 1971-2005 data were provided by Charles Stiller at the National Registry of Childhood Tumours on request in 2013.
  3. Reulen RC, Winter DL, Frobisher C, et al. Long-term cause-specific mortality among survivors of childhood cancer. JAMA 2010;304(2):172-9.
  4. Information Services Division Scotland. Childhood Cancers in Scotland (1983-2007). Edinburgh: ISD Scotland; 2011.
  5. Northern Ireland Cancer Registry. Childhood Cancer: Incidence & Survival 1993-2012. Belfast: NICR.
  6. Office for National Statistics. Statistical Bulletin: Cancer Survival for Children in England: Patients Diagnosed 1990-2006 and Followed up to 2011. Newport: ONS; 2013.
  7. Stiller CA, Kroll ME, Pritchard-Jones K. Population survival from childhood cancer in Britain during 1978-2005 by eras of entry to clinical trials. Ann Oncol 2012;23(9):2464-9.
  8. 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.
  9. Impact of improved survival was calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK. Based on data provided by Childhood Cancer Research Group at the National Registry of Childhood Tumours on request in 2014.
Updated: 20 January 2015