Childhood Cancer Facts

We’ve gathered answers to your most frequently asked questions about childhood cancer, including statistics, resources and more.

How common is childhood cancer?

About 1 in 285 children will develop cancer before the age of 20.

How many children are diagnosed with cancer each day?

47 children are diagnosed with cancer every day in the U.S.

How many types of childhood cancer are there?

There are more than 12 major types of childhood cancers and over 100 subtypes.

What is the survival rate for childhood cancer?

1 in 5 children diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. will not survive. Survival rates differ for different types of childhood cancers – but overall, childhood cancer remains the most common cause of death by disease among children in the U.S.

What are the most common types of childhood cancer?

The two most common types of childhood cancers are leukemias and brain/central nervous system cancers. 

Is childhood cancer rare?

Technically, yes. A rare disease is defined as one that affects a population smaller than 200,000 – meaning that all childhood cancers are technically considered rare. But we believe no childhood cancer is too rare to deserve research funding. Read our article: Why childhood cancers are considered “too rare” to get research funding.

How much funding goes to childhood cancer research each year?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much funding goes to childhood cancer research, but it pales in comparison to funds available for research into adult cancers. In fact, as a percentage of cancer research funding from the federal government, childhood cancer research funding is in the single digits. Over half of all funds dedicated to childhood cancer research are from donors like you. In short, without your support, vital childhood cancer research would not move forward.

How does childhood cancer affect families?

Childhood cancer impacts the whole family – in fact, one in four families lose more than 40% of their annual household income as a result of childhood cancer treatment-related work disruption. One in three families face other work disruptions such as having to quit work or change jobs.

Siblings of children with cancer are at risk for emotional and behavioral difficulties, such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic-stress disorder.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are well documented for parents whose children have completed cancer treatment.

Is childhood cancer different from adult cancers?

Yes – the two most common causes of cancer in adults are smoking and obesity. In children, the most common cause of cancer is randomly acquired DNA mutation. In short, childhood cancer is a disease of unfortunate random chance.

For many adult cancers, we know what puts adults at higher risk, and we can prevent many cancers by changing behaviors or treat them effectively by screening and catching them early. For kids, prevention may not be possible – some childhood cancers begin developing before the child is even born.

How can I support a family facing childhood cancer?

If you feel compelled to help a family experiencing cancer, know that your thoughtfulness could be a huge stress relief that’s remembered for a lifetime. Here are 5 ways to support a family facing cancer.

Looking for even more? Check out our blog post: “Is there anything I can do?” There is, and here’s how.

What should I write in a card to a child who has cancer?

You don’t want to write the wrong thing, but you want them to know you care… so where to start? Here are 5 things to write in a card to a child or family dealing with childhood cancer.

Looking to go above and beyond a card? Read our blog: Tips for bringing a meal to a cancer family.

What should I not say to a family facing cancer?

A family that has just received a new cancer diagnosis may be feeling very fragile – meaning even the most well-intentioned questions or comments can sting. Read our blog: What to Say (and What Not to Say) to a Family Facing Cancer where cancer parents share what they’ve found helpful, and what is better left unsaid.

What are the side-effects of childhood cancer treatment?

Side-effects of cancer treatment can range widely, and they are dependent on a child’s specific treatments. But some of the most common side-effects of childhood cancer treatment include:

Acute side-effects:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Body aches
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth, gum and throat sores
  • Weight changes
  • Increased risk of infection
What are some late-effects of childhood cancer treatment?

Because kids are still growing and developing during cancer treatment, and these treatments are so harsh, many survivors face late-effects years or even decades after treatment is over. Learn more about childhood cancer survivorship here.

Some common late-effects include:

  • Mental health issues and memory loss
  • Hearing loss
  • More cavities
  • Heart and other organ damage
  • Increased risk of secondary cancers
  • Infertility
  • Nerve damage, pain and weakness
  • Stunted bone growth

Looking for more? Check out our blog: Seven childhood cancer facts to share this childhood cancer awareness month.