Childhood Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of children and teens who will be diagnosed with cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors, and no 2 people with cancer are the same. Use the menu to see other pages.

Every person is different, with different factors influencing their risk of being diagnosed with this cancer and the chance of recovery after a diagnosis. It is important to talk with your doctor about any questions you have around the general statistics provided below and what they may mean for your child individually. The original sources for these statistics are provided at the bottom of this page.

How many children and teens are diagnosed with childhood cancer?

In general, cancer in children and teens is uncommon.

In 2023, an estimated 9,910 children younger than 15 and about 5,280 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 diagnosed. The next most common type of childhood cancer is brain cancer (26%), followed by lymphoma (12%).

In teens ages 15 to 19, brain cancer (21%), lymphoma (19%), and leukemia (13%) are the most commonly diagnosed cancers. Some cancers that are often found in adults are also common in teens. For example, thyroid cancer makes up 12% of cancer cases in teens, while melanoma makes up 3% of cases in this age group.

Rates of cancer in children and teens slowly increased since 1975, but those rates stabilized between 2010 and 2019. However, rates in teens continue to increase by around 1% each year. Most children and teens diagnosed with cancer can be treated successfully. Between 1970 and 2020, 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 advances in treatment.

Cancer is the top disease-related cause of death for children and teens. After accidents, cancer remains the second leading cause of death in children under age 15. Cancer is also the fourth leading cause of death in teens ages 15 to 19, after accidents, suicide, and homicide.

It is estimated that 1,040 deaths from cancer will occur in the United States this year in children younger than 15. An estimated 550 deaths from cancer will occur in teens ages 15 to 19.

What is the survival rate for childhood cancer?

There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a person’s chance of recovery from childhood cancer. These are called survival statistics. A specific type of survival statistic is called the relative survival rate. It is often used to predict how having cancer may affect life expectancy. Relative survival rate looks at how likely people with childhood cancer are to survive for a certain amount of time after their initial diagnosis or start of treatment compared to the expected survival of similar people without this cancer.

Example: Here is an example to help explain what a relative survival rate means. Please note this is only an example and not specific to this type of cancer. Let’s assume that the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 90%. “Percent” means how many out of 100. Imagine there are 1,000 people without cancer, and based on their age and other characteristics, you expect 900 of the 1,000 to be alive in 5 years. Also imagine there are another 1,000 people similar in age and other characteristics as the first 1,000, but they all have the specific type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. This means it is expected that 810 of the people with the specific cancer (90% of 900) will be alive in 5 years.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with childhood cancer are only an estimate. They cannot tell an individual person if cancer will or will not shorten their life. Instead, these statistics describe trends in groups of people previously diagnosed with the same disease, including specific stages of the disease.

In the mid-1970s, the general 5-year relative survival rate was 58% for children under 15 and 68% for teens ages 15 to 19. Today, thanks to major treatment advances and participation in clinical trials, the 5-year relative survival rate is 85% for children and 86% for teens. This rate is slightly higher for teen girls at 90%, compared to 83% for teen boys.

As explained in the Introduction, there are several types of childhood cancer, and survival rates are different for each. The survival rates vary based on several factors. These include the stage of cancer, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works.

The high rate of survival in teens ages 15 to 19 is largely due to a more than 99% overall 5-year relative survival rate for thyroid cancer and a 98% overall 5-year relative survival rate for Hodgkin lymphoma. For many other cancers, teens have lower survival rates than children under 15.

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

Experts measure relative survival rate statistics for childhood cancer every 5 years. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how childhood cancer is diagnosed or treated from 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 2023, and the ACS website. Additional source was Seigel R, et al.: Cancer Statistics 2023. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2023 Jan; 73(1):17–48. doi/full/10.3322/caac.21763. (All sources accessed February 2023.)

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