Get information on the most common types of children's cancers.
Children's cancer is much less common than adult cancer.
In the UK around 1,800 children (aged 0 - 14 years) are diagnosed with cancer each year. This number includes non cancerous (benign) brain tumours. Children develop different types of cancers than adults but they often have the same types of treatments.
Most common types
The most common types of childhood cancer are:
- acute leukaemias, diagnosed in 1 in 3 children with cancer
- cancers of the brain and spinal cord, diagnosed in 1 in 4 children with cancer
The other rarer types of children's cancers include:
- retinoblastoma (a type of eye cancer)
- neuroblastoma (a cancer of nerve cells)
- Wilms' tumours (a type of kidney cancer)
- muscle or bone cancers, such as osteosarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, and Ewing's sarcoma
- lymphoma (cancer that starts in the lymphatic system)
We have more detailed information about some cancer types that might affect children in the cancer types section. The information in those pages is mainly about adult cancer, rather than children's cancers. But much of the information about causes, diagnosis and treatment will be the same.
How often childhood cancer is cured
In the 1960s only about 3 out of every 10 children (30%) with cancer were successfully treated. But in the past 40 years treatment for children with cancer has improved greatly.
Now more than 8 out of every 10 children diagnosed with cancer will live for at least 5 years. Most of these children will be cured. Hodgkin lymphoma and an eye cancer called retinoblastoma are curable in more than 9 out of 10 children (90%).
Even though cancer is not common in children, it is the most common cause of death from illness in children between the ages of 1 and 15. This is because children today are at much lower risk of dying from infectious diseases than they were in the past.
So although the percentages of children dying from various cancers have gone down, the proportion of childhood deaths from cancer overall has gone up.
Symptoms of childhood cancer
Cancer symptoms can be very similar to those of other illnesses. And they vary between children. Remember, cancer in children is very rare.