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CDC Report Shows Decline in Youth Cancer Mortality, Highlights Racial and Ethnic Disparities

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While the overall rate of cancer death among children has declined substantially in recent decades, progress has stalled for Black and Hispanic children compared with White children since 2011.

The cancer death rate among youth in the United States dropped by a quarter from 2001 to 2021, according to a new data brief from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. However, the report showed a halt in progress for non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic youth compared with non-Hispanic White youth from 2011 through 2021.

Rates of youth cancer mortality have declined since the mid-1970s, although there has been a slow increase in the incidences of some major cancer types, according to the report. The new data brief provides updates from a previous report demonstrating declines across 5-year age groups of youth up to 19 years of age between 1999 and 2014.

Child with cancer | Image credit: MIA Studio - stock.adobe.com

Child with cancer | Image credit: MIA Studio - stock.adobe.com

Overall, the cancer death rate was 2.75 per 100,000 in 2001 vs 2.10 per 100,000 in 2021, a 24% decrease in deaths due to cancer in youth aged 0-19 years. Cancer mortality rates decreased among both males and females between 2001 and 2021, with a decline of 30% in females (2.50 vs 1.76 per 100,000) and 19% among males (2.99 vs 2.42 per 100,000).

Despite the decline seen in the overall population, racial and ethnic disparities emerged from 2011 through 2021. Between 2001 and 2011, decreases in death rates were similar across Black non-Hispanic, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic White youth and ranged from 15% to 17%. From 2011 to 2021, the rates of cancer death did not significantly change for Black or Hispanic youth, but the rate among White youth dropped by 12%, from 2.27 to 1.99 per 100,000.

Additionally, while the rates of cancer death were not statistically significantly different between Black, White, and Hispanic youth in 2001 or 2011, the rate of cancer death among White youth was 15% to 16% lower compared with Black and Hispanic youth in 2021.

While the overall rates dropped in both male and female youth, the brief reported an 8% increase in the cancer death rate for male youth from 2020 to 2021, but a 9% decline in the cancer death rate among female youth in the same time frame. Cancer death rates among male youth were between 20% and 38% higher than female youth in 2001, 2011, and 2021.

Across age groups (0-4 years, 5-9 years, 10-14 years, and 15-19 years) there were drops in cancer death rates between 2001 and 2011. Between 2011 and 2021, only the 0-4 and 5-9 age groups had significant declines. The highest cancer death rates in 2001, 2011, and 2021 were seen in adolescents aged 15-19. Still, this age group had a 23% decline in cancer death rates from 2001 to 2021 (3.58 vs 2.75 per 100,000).

Regarding cancer types, brain cancer was the leading type causing death among youth in 2021 with a rate of 0.59 per 100,000. The rate of death attributed to brain cancer was 23% higher than leukemia and more than twice as high as death rates due to bone and articular cancer. The report also showed a decline of 47% in deaths due to leukemia, which was the most common type of cancer to cause death among youth in 2001 (0.90 vs 0.48 per 100,000).

The report highlights significant progress in cancer outcomes among youth in the United States, but also a lag in progress among Black and Hispanic youth compared with White youth in the past decade. This finding adds to a growing body of data reiterating the existence of cancer outcome disparities between racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

Reference

Curtin SC, Anderson RN. Declines in cancer death rates among youth:
United States, 2001–2021. National Center for Health Statistics data brief 484. November 2023. Accessed November 20, 2023. doi:10.15620/cdc:134499

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