Childhood Cancer Fact Sheet

A cancer diagnosis is always distressing, but it can be especially heartrending when the patient in question is a child. There are some notable differences between cancers in children and cancers in adults.


Here are some key facts about childhood cancer:

  • Children make up less than 1 percent of all cancer diagnoses each year.
  • Even so, about 40,000 children are treated for cancer each year.
  • Cancer is the second biggest cause of death for children, after accidents.
  • An estimated 10,380 children under the age of 15 were diagnosed with cancer in 2015.
  • The average age of children who are diagnosed with cancer is six years old.
  • Of the children diagnosed with cancer, 12 percent do not survive.
  • An estimated 1,250 children 15 and younger died from cancer in 2015 alone.
  • The rate of childhood cancer diagnoses has been increasing for the last few decades.
  • More than 80 percent of children with cancer survive 5 years or more.
  • While adult cancers tend to be related to environmental or lifestyle risk factors, childhood cancers tend to be caused by DNA changes in the body’s cells that take place early in life.
  • Cancers in children tend to respond better to treatments like chemotherapy.
  • Children’s bodies also tend to cope better with chemotherapy than adults’ bodies.
  • Because cancer treatments like chemotherapy can cause long-term side effects, child cancer survivors require careful follow-up the rest of their lives.
  • 60 percent of childhood cancer survivors suffer late effects, or side effects from cancer treatments that show up months or even years later. These can include infertility, heart failure and even secondary cancers.
  • Leukemias (cancers of the bone marrow and blood) are the most common type of cancer found in children, accounting for 30 percent of all cases.
  • The second most common type of childhood cancer are tumors of the brain and central nervous system, consisting of 26 percent of all cases.
  • There are about 375,000 adults who are survivors of childhood cancer in the United States.

Sources: American Cancer Society, CureSearch, Keaton Raphael Memorial