Childhood Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of children and teens 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 teens is uncommon. This year, an estimated 10,500 children younger than 15 and about 5,090 teens ages 15 to 19 in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer.

In children under 15, leukemia makes up 28% of all childhood cancers. The next most common type of childhood cancer is brain cancer (27%), followed by lymphoma (9%).

In teens ages 15 to 19, brain cancer (21%), lymphoma (19%), and leukemia (13%) are the most common cancers. Some cancers that are often found in adults are also common in teens. For example, thyroid cancer makes up 11% of cancer cases in teens while melanoma makes up 3% of cases in this age group.

Rates of cancer in children and teens have slowly been increasing since 1975. However, most children and teens diagnosed with cancer can be treated successfully. Between 1975 and 2018, the number of deaths from cancer in children and teens decreased by more than 50%. This is due to increased participation in clinical trials and treatment advances.

Still, cancer remains the second leading cause of death in children under age 15 after accidents. Cancer is also the fourth leading cause of death in teens age 15 to 19, after accidents, suicide, and homicide.

It is estimated that 1,190 deaths from cancer will occur this year in children younger than 15. An estimated 590 deaths from cancer will occur in teens age 15 to 19.

As explained in the Introductionthere 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%.

Visit the individual section for a specific type of childhood cancer for more information about survival statistics (see the Introduction for a complete list).

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for children and teens with cancer are an estimate. The estimate comes from a database registry of children and teens 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) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2021, and the ACS website (sources accessed January 2021).

The next section in this guide is Risk Factors. 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.