Childhood Cancer Fatalities Have Dramatically Decreased

( — In the course of the last 20 years, survival rates for children with cancer have vastly improved. Sally Curtin of the National Center for Health Statistics remarked that the treatments are getting better. She added that overall, the recent analysis is good news.

The most common cancer deaths in people aged 19 and under are caused by leukemia and brain cancer. The medical director of the Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Health, Dr. Stephen Skapek, points to advancements in immunotherapy treatments to explain the 47% decline in leukemia-related deaths in children and teens from 2001 to 2021. He added that while some of these new treatments are “game changers,” they seem to work more effectively on children than on teenagers.

According to the CDC, cancer deaths have been decreasing more generally over the last three decades. They attribute this mostly to lowered rates of smoking and increased regular cancer screenings. However, cancer screenings are not common for children, and diagnosis usually comes after they are already very ill.

While cancer deaths are declining, cancer has become more common in new patients of all age groups. Most cancer is found not in children but in adults over 65, but a study out of Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology shows that doctors have been observing an alarming rise in cancer in Americans under 50 years old. Adults have also not been experiencing the vastly improved survival rates that hospitals are seeing in children. Of course, there are many different kinds of cancer and different types of treatments.

Children only make up 1% of cancer cases in the US, and their cancers are most often a result of genetics instead of outside factors. Dr. Paolo Boffetta, who is the associate director of population sciences at the Stony Brook Cancer Center, says that for the treatment of children with cancer, it is best for them to get care at a specialized pediatric cancer hospital. As children tend to suffer from different cancers and require treatments tailored to their youth and size, regular hospital oncology departments may not be as prepared to provide them with the treatments and care they require.

The recent breakthroughs in treatment for sufferers of childhood cancers may in the future be coordinated with more cancer screenings for children and teens, which could lead to even better survival rates.

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