The incidence of childhood cancers increased by 13% between 2001-2010, according to a new international scientific study, which assessed the latest available data in 62 countries.
Pediatric cancers are relatively rare and usually have a genetic cause, but they can also be due to infections and environmental factors. About one-third of childhood cancers under the age of 15 involve leukemia.
The increase in childhood cancers over time is attributed by scientists mainly to the improvement of diagnostic methods, as at the same time the life expectancy of young patients is improving in several countries. But in other countries, especially the poorest in Asia and Africa, many cases are never diagnosed.
Researchers from the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), published in the journal The Lancet Oncology, report that on average, around 140 children per million are diagnosed with cancer worldwide. at the age of 14 years. Particularly among adolescents, 185 per million develop cancer, usually lymphoma.
Inequalities in leukemia
Although inequalities internationally in childhood leukemia survival have declined in recent years, they vary considerably from country to country, as in some countries life expectancy at diagnosis after diagnosis is almost double that of others, according to one second international scientific study.
Indicatively, the five-year survival of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia reaches 92% in Germany compared to 52% in Colombia. Survival has improved for most age groups, but the lowest remains in infants under one year of age.
Leukemia is the most common form of childhood cancer worldwide in children up to 14 years of age, accounting for about one-third of cancers in children up to nine years old and a quarter in children ten to 14 years old.
The researchers, led by Dr. Audrey Bonaventer of the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine, published in The Lancet Haematology, analyzed data on nearly 90.000 children from 53 countries (not Greece).
Patients' life expectancy has been found to increase over time in most countries for the two major forms of childhood leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), but significant disparities between countries remain. Progress has been higher in the OLL than in the OML, with a five-year survival rate for the latter ranging from 33% in Bulgaria to 78% in Germany.
The chances of survival depend on the age of the child at the time of diagnosis. When done at one to nine years of age, survival is greater than if leukemia is diagnosed between the ages of one year or between ten and 14 years.
"There is still much room for improvement in the management of childhood leukemia in many countries. Five-year survival after diagnosis for children with ALL can reach 90% and for children with AML 80%, but in some countries it remains below 60% for both conditions. "We do not yet know how to prevent leukemia in children, but the best possible treatment provides the opportunity for long-term survival in most children," said Bonaventer.
About 80% of childhood leukemia cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, which have a lower five-year survival rate.