Childhood Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of children and teenagers who are diagnosed with cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

In general, cancer in children and teenagers is uncommon, accounting for less than 1% of all cancer cases in the United States. This year, an estimated 11,050 children younger than 15 and about 5,800 teens ages 15 to 19 in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer.

The most common childhood cancers in children younger than 15 are leukemia and brain and central nervous system tumors.

In teens ages 15 to 19, thyroid cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma will be the top 2 most commonly diagnosed cancers this year.

Most children and teens diagnosed with cancer can be treated successfully. Between 1975 and 2017, the number of deaths from cancer in children under age 15 decreased by more than 50% due to increased participation in clinical trials and treatment advances. However, cancer remains the second leading cause of death in this age group after accidents.

It is estimated that 1,190 deaths from cancer will occur this year in children younger than 15 and 540 deaths from cancer in teens age 15 to 19.

As explained in the Introduction, there are several types of childhood cancer, and survival rates are different for each. The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of children live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. In the mid-1970s, the general 5-year survival rate for children under 15 was 58%. Today, thanks to major treatment advances and participation in clinical trials, it is 84%. For teens age 15 to 19, the 5-year survival rate for all cancers is 85%.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for children and teenagers with cancer are an estimate. The estimate comes from a database registry of children and teenagers with cancer in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of improved treatments and/or supportive care available within the last 5 years. Talk with your child’s doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publications, Cancer Facts & Figures 2020 and Cancer Facts & Figures 2016, and the ACS website (January 2020).

The next section in this guide is Risk Factors and Prevention. It explains what factors may increase the chance of developing childhood cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.