What is childhood cancer?

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death among children and adolescents worldwide5; each year approximately 300,000 children between the ages of 0 and 19 are diagnosed with cancer

7 important facts about childhood cancer6

  • It includes many different types of tumors that develop in children and adolescents from 0 to 19 years of age. The most common types are leukemia, brain cancer, lymphoma, and solid tumors such as neuroblastoma and Wilms tumor.
  • In high-income countries, more than 80% of children with cancer are cured, but in many low- and middle-income countries the cure rate is about 20%.
  • In general, childhood cancer cannot be prevented or detected.
  • Improving outcomes for children with cancer requires early and accurate diagnosis followed by effective treatment.
  • Most childhood cancers can be cured with generic drugs and other types of treatments, such as surgery and radiation therapy. Cancer treatment in children can be cost-effective at all income levels.
  • Preventable deaths from childhood cancers in low- and middle-income countries occur because of underdiagnosis, late or incorrect diagnoses, difficulties in accessing health care, treatment abandonment, death from toxicity and the highest recurrence rates.
  • Childhood cancer data systems are needed to drive continuous improvement in the quality of care and promote policy adoption.

What causes cancer in children?

Cancer affects people of all ages and can appear anywhere in the body. It begins with genetic changes in a single cell that subsequently multiplies uncontrollably. In many cancers, this behavior results in a mass (or tumor). If left untreated, the cancer usually spreads, invades other parts of the body, and causes death.

Unlike cancer in adults, most cancers in children have no known cause. Many studies have tried to identify the causes of childhood cancer, but very few cancers are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors in children.

What is the cancer prevention measures in children?

They should focus on the behaviors that will prevent them from developing preventable cancers as adults.

Some chronic infections are risk factors for childhood cancer and are more important in low- and middle-income countries. For example, HIV, Epstein-Barr virus, and malaria increase the risk of some types of childhood cancers.

Other infections can increase the chances that children will develop cancer in their adult life, so vaccination and other methods, such as early diagnosis or detection, are important to reduce chronic infections that can cause cancer, since either in childhood or later.

Current data indicates that approximately 10% of children with cancer have a genetic predisposition. Further research is needed to identify the factors that influence the development of cancer in children.

Early diagnostic

When cancer is found early, it is more likely to respond to effective treatment and the chances of survival are increased, suffering is reduced, and treatment is cheaper and less intensive. The lives of children with cancer can be significantly improved if the disease is found early and delays in treatment are avoided. A correct diagnosis is vital to treating these children because each cancer requires a specific therapeutic regimen that may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Early diagnosis consists of three components:

  • Family awareness and access to healthcare.
  • Clinical evaluation, diagnosis, and staging (find out how far the cancer has spread).
  • Access to treatment.

Early diagnosis is important in all settings and increases survival in many cancers. Programs to promote early and correct diagnosis have been successfully implemented in countries of all economic levels, often in collaboration with governments, civil society, non-governmental organizations, and in particular parent groups. Childhood cancer is associated with various warning symptoms that can be detected by families and by trained primary care health professionals.


A correct diagnosis is essential in treating children with cancer, as each cancer requires a specific therapeutic regimen that may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Access to effective diagnosis, essential drugs, pathology, blood products, radiation therapy, technology, and psychosocial and supportive care varies and is not equitable in different parts of the world.



1 Steliarova-Foucher E, Colombet M, Ries LAG, et al. International incidence of childhood cancer, 2001-10: a population-based registry study. Lancet Oncol. 2017;18(6):719-731.
2 Gupta S, Howard SC, Hunger SP, et al. Treating Childhood Cancer in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. In: Disease Control Priorities, volume http://dcp-3.org/chapter/900/treating-childhood-cancers-low-and-middle-income-countries
3 Howard SC, Zaidi A, Cao X, et al. The My Child Matters programme: effect of public-private partnerships on paediatric cancer care in low-income and middle-income countries. Lancet Oncol. 2018;19(5):e252-e266.
4 Zhang J, Walsh MF, Wu G, Edmonson MN, Gruber TA, et al. Germline Mutations in Predisposition Genes in Pediatric Cancer. N Engl J Med. 2015 Dec 10;373(24):2336-2346.
5 OMS. 2021. El cáncer infantil. Recuperado de: https://www.who.int/es/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer-in-children

6 OPS. Datos clave. Recuperado de: https://www.paho.org/es/temas/cancer-ninez

Autor: Ulsa Tech

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