Monday, October 2, 2023

Cancer incidence and survival rates rise in children and young people

Five-year survival increased to 90 per cent in adolescents and young adults, National Cancer Registry report finds

An average of 369 cancers were diagnosed in children and young adults annually in Ireland in the last decade, with leukaemias, lymphomas and brain and central nervous system (CNS) cancers among the most common in this group, a new report has found.

The study from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland showed that, while cancer incidences in the under-25s is increasing, so too are survival rates.

Between 2011 and 2020 cancer incidence rates rose by 1.3 per cent each year in 0–15-year-olds, and 1.1 per cent in those aged 16-24. However, five-year survival rates have also increased from 82 to 87 per cent in the under-16s and from 87 to 90 per cent in adolescents and young adults.

Of the 8,974 patients under-25 diagnosed with cancer between 1994 and 2020, 7,354 (82 per cent) were still alive at the end of 2020.

“Although rare, childhood, adolescent and young adult cancers are particularly important as they are not easily prevented, their impact on individuals and their families can endure well after the initial diagnosis and treatment, and their causes are, in the main, unknown,” Prof Deirdre Murray, Director of the National Cancer Registry, said.

“Monitoring trends in these cancers is essential for health service planning as well as for research into causation. Our report aims to profile these cancers and provide useful insights for policy makers, planners, and the public into progress on control of these cancers in Ireland to date.”

Of the 369 cancers diagnosed annually, 191 cases were found in children (0-15). More than one-in-four (52 cases) of the incidence in this age group were cancers of the brain and CNS, with leukaemias also making up another quarter (51 cases) of incidence. At 23 cases, lymphomas comprised of 12 per cent of incidence.

In 26-24-year-olds, an average of 178 cases were diagnosed annually between 2011 and 2020. Of these, one-in-three cancers (60 cases) were other epithelial tumours and melanomas, while 21 per cent (37 cases) were lymphomas and 15 per cent (26 cases) were brain and CNS tumours.

In children, cases among boys were slightly higher than incidence in girls, with an annual average of 101 male cancers compared to 91 female cases. In adolescents and young adults, there was very little difference between the sexes, with a yearly average of 90 male and 88 female cases.

Age was also found to be a significant factor in the type of cancer diagnosed. Leukaemias and brain and CNS cancers were more commonly diagnosed in younger children while the incidence of other cancers, such as lymphomas, germ cell tumours and other epithelial tumours and melanomas increase with age.

Certain subgroups of cancers – such as neuroblastoma and ganglioneuroblastoma, retinoblastoma and hepatoblastoma – almost exclusively occur in children under 6, while diagnoses of other subgroups such as Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and malignant melanoma occur at a later age.

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