A report released by the American Cancer Society reveals an increase in childhood cancer cases coupled with falling death rates among children and adolescents. Cancer in children, while still much rarer than cancer in adults, remains the second-leading cause of childhood death after accidents.
As the report signals, one aspect of the disease is that it develops differently in children than in adults; there are no preventable causes in childhood cancer and it is more difficult to detect. The study did not offer definitive reasons why the rate continues to rise. The question remains the source of considerable debate in the medical community.
New diagnoses have inched up each year, most recently to about 187 per 1 million children from infancy to age 19. The increases have been driven by blood and lymphatic system cancers, including acute lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Experts are not sure why, but they say better diagnosis could be a factor.
The good news is that among more common forms of cancer, the survival rate has increased "from 10% to more than 80%" over the course of the past 40 years. For rarer forms of cancer, the survival rate remains haltingly low.
Dr. Otis W. Brawley, the chief medical officer for the America Cancer Society added this in a prepared statement about the report: “Progress in childhood cancer has been dramatic for some sites, but we cannot let that blind us from the fact that progress has been disappointingly slow for other sites."
In 2014, nearly 16,000 American children and adolescents are expected to be diagnosed with some form of cancer. Approximately 2,000 will die of the disease this year.