Children’s cancers in numbers

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Cancer in children is much less common than cancer in adults, accounting for less than 1% of all new cancer cases in the UK.[1-4]

There are around 1,900 new cases of cancer in children in the UK every year[1-4], spread across 76 cancer types.[5]

The number of children diagnosed with each of these 76 cancer types varies considerably, and it’s worth noting that for most types of children’s cancers, the number of new cases diagnosed each year is under 10.[5]

Although there are 76 types of children’s cancer, these can be put into 12 main groups, and some groups are more common than others. The most common of these groups are: leukaemias (around 3 in 10 cancer cases diagnosed in UK children each year), brain and spinal, other central nervous system and intracranial tumours (around 2 in 10), and lymphomas (around 1 in 10).[5]

Survival for children’s cancers varies considerably. More than 8 in 10 children in England survive their cancer for 5 years or more (all cancers combined); but some cancer groups and cancer types have much lower survival. The graph below shows the average survival rate for each of the 12 groups of children’s cancers, meaning a specific type of cancer within that group may have a higher or lower survival rate. 

If you have any questions about these data, you can get in touch via email: CYPCancerNumbers@cancer.org.uk

  1. Data were provided by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (part of Public Health England), on request through the Office for Data Release, August 2018. Similar data can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/cancerregistrationstatisticsengland/previousReleases
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, April 2018. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications.
  3. Data were provided by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales on request, February 2019. Similar data can be found here: http://www.wcisu.wales.nhs.uk.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, April 2018. Similar data can be found here: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/.
  5. Data used was calculated by the Cancer Intelligence Team at Cancer Research UK, August 2019. Based on International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) International Incidence of Childhood Cancer, UK 2000-2011 (available from http://iicc.iarc.fr/includes/results/registries/Europe/Europe_UK.pdf, accessed August 2019) and Public Health England (PHE) Number of newly diagnosed cancers registered among children under 15 years of age and resident in England 2001 to 2015 (available from http://www.ncin.org.uk/view?rid=3716, accessed August 2019). IARC UK data do not break down to the finest level of children's cancer classification (e.g. Iai), so data at this level were calculated by applying ratios from the PHE England data, to the available IARC UK data.
  6. Population-based 5-year survival of children with cancer in England diagnosed 2011 to 2015, by period of diagnosis, grouped according to ‘International Classification of Childhood Cancer, Third Edition’ (ICCC-3) from National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service, Public Health England, CAS accessed December 2017.

We wanted to create clear and accurate information and graphics about the types of cancer that children (aged 0-14) are diagnosed with. We consulted the Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Advisory Panel (comprised of those directly affected by children’s cancers) for their views on which data sources to use. The majority preferred that we use UK-wide figures from the International Agency for research on Cancer (IARC), combined with estimation of numbers for rarer subtypes based on Public Health England (PHE) data, so this is what we used. See reference 5.

Note that our children’s cancer data comes from a range of different sources and relates to different time periods. New UK-wide data is expected from Public Health England (PHE) in Winter 2019-2020, this will provide more consistent and up-to-date UK-level statistics.

See also

Patient and public information on children’s cancers

More data on children’s cancers

Partners

The Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People

The Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group

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