Childhood Cancers

What is childhood cancer?
According to and oncologists of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, cancer develops when normal cells change and grow uncontrollably. In most kinds of cancer, these cells form a mass called a tumor. Tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

In leukemia, a cancer of the blood starts in the bone marrow. These cells rarely form a tumor; but rather crowd out other types of cells in the bone marrow. As a result, this prevents the production of normal red blood cells, other white blood cells and platelets (needed for clotting).

Additionally, cancer in children most often develops in parts of their bodies that are still growing such as their blood system, brain, nervous system and kidneys.

According to the National Cancer Institute, leukemias and cancers of the brain and central nervous system account for more than half of the childhood cancers. The causes are largely unknown.

How many children are diagnosed in the U.S. annually?
According to the National Cancer Institute in 2007 approximately 10,400 children under 15 years of age were diagnosed with cancer. It is estimated that approximately 1,545 will die from the disease. These numbers makes childhood cancer the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children 1 to 14 years of age.

While these numbers are staggering, cancer is still relatively rare in this age group. On average, 1 to 2 children develop the disease each year for every 10,000 children in the U.S.

What is the cause of childhood cancers?
The causes are largely unknown. In some cases chromosomal and genetic abnormalities and ionizing radiation exposure may explain a small percentage.

What are the common types of childhood cancers in kids under 14 years of age?
According to

  • Leukemia (accounts for 34% of cases)
  • Brain and central nervous system (CNS) tumors (27%), including tumors of the spinal cord
  • Neuroblastoma (7%), a tumor of immature nerve cells that often begins in the adrenal glands
  • Wilms Tumor (5%) a type of kidney tumor
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (4%) and Hodgkin lymphoma (4%) begins in the lymph system
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma (3%) a tumor that begins in the striated muscle, which are the skeletal voluntary muscles that people can control. Other, rare soft tissue sarcomas also occur.
  • Retinoblastoma (3%), an eye tumor
  • Osteosarcoma (3%) and Ewing sarcoma (1%), tumors that begin in the bone
  • Germ cell tumors, rare tumors that begin in the testicles of boys and ovaries of girls. In even more rare cases, tumor in the brain
  • Pleuropulmonary blastoma, a rare lung cancer that begins in the chest
  • Hepatoblastoma and hepatocellular carcinoma, liver tumors

For additional information, contact, an organization celebrating 10 years of cancer education.

CURE Childhood Cancer Association at or call 1-585-473-0180.

The National Children’s Cancer Society, serving kids and their families for 25 years at

American Childhood Cancer Organization at or call 1-855- 858-2226.

St. Jude On Children Battling Cancer at or call 1 800-830-9119.