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NCHS Report: Rising Survivorship in Pediatric Cancers, Brain Cancer Leading Cause of Death
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NCHS Report: Rising Survivorship in Pediatric Cancers, Brain Cancer Leading Cause of Death

Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, PhD
Brain cancer has replaced leukemia as the leading cause of cancer-related death in children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer.
There was a steady decline in death rates among children and adolescent patients diagnosed with cancer, without gender or racial disparity, between 1999 and 2014, according to a new report released by the National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics. A significant finding of the report is that brain cancer has replaced leukemia as the leading cause of cancer-related death.

Pediatric cancers have seen a steady decline in mortality over the past decade, despite a slow increase in incidence of certain cancer types. For the current report, the researchers evaluated cancer death rates for children aged 1 to 19 years for the period between 1999 and 2014. They compared death rates for both male and females, as well as white and black children and adolescents. The following are key findings from the report for that period:
  • A steady decline in the cancer death rate in the United States, for children and adolescents aged 1 to 19 years: from 2.85 to 2.28 deaths per 100,000, a 20% decline.
  • The death rate for females was 22% lower in 2014 (1.98) compared with 1999 (2.54)
  • The death rate for males was 18% lower in 2014 (2.57) compared with 1999 (3.15)
  • In 2014, the cancer death rate for males aged 1 to 19 years was 30% higher than for females.
  • The decline in the death rate for the entire period was consistent across genders and between black and white children and adolescents:
  • The cancer death rate for white children and adolescents was 17% lower in 2014 (2.36) than in 1999 (2.85), and it was 23% lower for those who were black (3.01 in 1999 vs 2.32 in 2014).
  • For adolescents aged 15 to 19 years, the cancer deaths dropped by 22% between 1999 (3.71) and 2014 (2.9), although they had the highest cancer death rates in 1999, 2006, and 2014.
  • At the beginning of the study period, children younger than 4 years had a 10% higher cancer death rate (2.72) compared with children 5 to 9 years of age (2.47). Data from 2014, however, found no significant difference in the death rates across age groups from 1 to 14 years.
  • Over the 5-year period of analysis, brain cancer replaced leukemia as the leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 19 years, with 30% of cancer deaths in 2014 alone.
  • Brain cancer and leukemia combined remained the leading causes of cancer deaths in the 1-to-19 age group during the study period (53.4% in 1999 vs 54.8% in 2014).
  • Other tumor sites responsible for higher mortality in this age group included bone and articular cartilage, thyroid and endocrine glands, and mesothelial and soft tissue—these top 5 sites accounted for more than 80% of cancer deaths in this age group in 2014

Curtin SC, Miniño AM, Anderson RN. Declines in cancer death rates among children and adolescents in the United States, 1999-2014. NCHS data brief, no 257. CDC website.
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