The occurrence of cancer during childhood is very rare, representing less than 1 percent of all new cancer diagnoses. Although uncommon, cancer is the second leading cause of death among children exceeded only by accidents. Each year, approximately 364 cases of cancer and 53 cancer-related deaths occur among Indiana children ages 0-19. In general childhood cancer trends in Indiana are similar to what is seen throughout the United States. For most cases of childhood cancer the cause is unknown.
The most recent comparable U.S. and Indiana childhood cancer incidence rates show that Indiana rates for ages 0-19 (17.6 cases per 100,000 children) were similar to the national rates (17.2 cases per 100,000 children) during 2005-2009. During the same period, the Indiana and U.S. childhood cancer mortality rates were 2.7 and 2.5 deaths respectively per 100,000 children.
Using the International Classification of Childhood Cancer system, the most common cancer types diagnosed among Indiana children ages 0-14 were leukemias and brain tumors. In children ages 15-19, the most common cancer types were lymphomas and a group of cancers that include epithelial cancers (cancers that develop from the cellular covering of internal and external body surfaces or related tissues in the skin, hollow viscera, and other organs) and melanoma.
Who Gets Childhood Cancer Most Often?
- White children. During 2006-2010, in Indiana, white children had a significantly higher incidence rate than African American children (20.7 versus 14.5 cases per 100,000 children). These differences in rates between races are also seen nationally.
- Children born with certain genetic diseases. Children with Down Syndrome, neurofibromatosis, Beckwith Wiedemann Syndrome, Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, Bloom’s Syndrome, ataxia-telangiectasia, monosomy 7, tuberous sclerosis, congenital immunodeficiency disorders, hemihypertrophy, Gardner’s Syndrome, and familial adenomatous polyposis are at greater risk for developing various types of childhood cancer.
- Boys born with undescended testes. They are at greater risk for testicular cancer.
- Additional risk factors include:
- Radiation exposure, especially prenatally (includes x-rays)
- Tanning bed or sun exposure increases the risk of melanoma, one of the more common cancers among teenagers
- Prior chemotherapy with an alkylating agent or epipodophyllotoxin
- Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus is associated with certain types of lymphoma
- Insecticide exposure, especially prenatally, is associated with leukemia
Early Detection and Common Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Cancer
Early symptoms of childhood cancer are usually nonspecific. Parents should ensure that children have regular medical checkups and should be aware of any unusual symptoms that persist. Potential cancer-related signs and symptoms include:
- Unusual mass or swelling
- Unexplained paleness or loss of energy
- Sudden tendency to bruise
- Persistent, localized pain
- Prolonged, unexplained fever or illness
- Frequent headaches, often with vomiting
- Sudden eye or vision changes
- Excessive, rapid weight loss
Because of major treatment advances in recent decades, more than 80 percent of children with cancer now survive five years or more. Overall, this is a huge increase since the mid-1970s, when the five-year survival rate was less than 60 percent. Still, survival rates vary depending on the type of cancer and other factors. The sooner a cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better. Childhood cancers can be treated by a combination of therapies (surgery, radiation and chemotherapy) chosen based on the type and stage of cancer. Treatment is coordinated by a team of experts, including pediatric oncologists, pediatric nurses, social workers, psychologists, and others. Because these cancers are uncommon, outcomes are more successful when treatment is managed by a children’s cancer center.
- Childhood Cancer Fact Sheet — Use this fact sheet to educate your partners and communities. The fact sheet provides information and statistics on childhood cancer in Indiana.
- Sample Press Release for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (September) — This press release is designed to be customized and sent to local media outlets. County level data is available by contacting the ISDH Cancer Registry at (317) 234-2561.
- Sample Social Media Messages — These sample messages can be customized, or used as they are to promote awareness, prevention, and early detection.
- 2012 Indiana Facts and Figures: Childhood Cancer — Provides current statistics and information on childhood cancer in Indiana in convenient PDF form. This can be linked to documents, websites, presentations, or through social media.
- Indiana Cancer Control Plan (ICCP) 2010-2014 — Provides a roadmap for cancer control in Indiana. The ICCP includes six focus areas: primary prevention, early detection, treatment, quality of life, data, and advocacy. This can be linked to documents, websites, presentations, or through social media.
Additional online resources:
- Indiana State Department of Health
- Indiana State Cancer Registry Statistics Report Generator
- Indiana Cancer Consortium
- American Cancer Society
- American Childhood Cancer Organization
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
- Youth Risk Behavior Survey
- Childhood Leukemia Foundation
- Children’s Cancer Web
- Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
- Little Red Doo Cancer Agency