Nov 16, 2023 - Health

Cancer deaths among kids have fallen sharply

Data: NCHS; Chart: Axios Visuals

Rates of cancer deaths among children and teens fell precipitously over the last decade, driven by advances against childhood leukemia in particular, new CDC research shows.

Why it matters: While the number of new cancers are up across all age groups, this study shows the progress that has been made in helping the youngest patients survive cancer.

By the numbers: From 2001 to 2021, the U.S. cancer death rate among young people up to 19 years old dropped 24%, from 2.75 per 100,000 to 2.1 per 100,000.

  • Brain cancer was the most common cause of death among this group in 2021, with a rate — 0.59 per 100,000 — that was 23% higher than leukemia at 0.48 per 100,000.

Yes, but: Amid the progress in survival rates, some perplexing racial and ethnic disparities have emerged.

  • The differences in cancer death rates among white, Black and Hispanic children and teens were not statistically significant in 2001 and 2011.
  • But between 2011 and 2021, the rates of cancer survival began to stagnate among Black and Hispanic children while they continued to fall 12% among white children.
  • "The treatments are getting better and better. But as they're getting better, these disparities are opening up now," Sally Curtin, lead author of the National Center for Health Statistics analysis, told Axios.
  • More research is needed to understand if there is a biological basis for the disparities or whether they are being driven by unequal access to treatment, she said.

Of note: Even as survival rates improve, cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease after infancy among children in the U.S.

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