A study in the journal The Lancet Oncology has shown a worldwide increase in the burden of childhood cancer. This study includes data from 195 countries.
The childhood cancers may lead to loss of healthy life years
In 2017, the number of cancer cases in the children and youth (with age 0 – 19 yrs.) was quite low. The data shows that the new cases were 416,500.
Still, the illness from treatment, disability, and fatal cancer has caused a burden. They have led to a global loss of about 11.5 million healthy life years per year.
The burden was higher in the poorest countries. And it accounts for about 82% of overall cancer cases in 2017. That is equal to a loss of 9.5 million healthy life years.
In this study, the research team gave the first picture of the worldwide burden caused by cancer in children. 97% of this worldwide burden was due to early death, while about 3% was due to reduced life quality.
The study also tells about the number of healthy life years lost due to a disability, illness, and early death. This measurement is known as DALYs – disability adjusted life years. One year of healthy life lost is equal to one DALY.
The team has also found that disability in the survivors of childhood cancer was present for the first 10 years after the diagnosis of cancer, rather than for whole life. It suggests that an estimated worldwide burden of cancer in children is less than the actual one.
Estimation of the burden caused by childhood cancer
By knowing the burden of childhood cancer as DALYs, one can better understand the harmful effects of cancer on the children. The children living in high income countries have a good survival rate. About 80% of children survived in these countries.
But in most low and middle income countries (LMIC), survival rates were about 35 – 40%. Still some estimates have shown that survival rates in LMIC are about 20%. 90% of the children at risk of having cancer are living in these LMIC.
Assessing a worldwide increase in burden caused by cancer in children has allowed policymakers to identify plans to control cancer. Countries with high SDI – socio-demographic Index, have low fertility, and high rates of income and education. While countries with low SDI have high fertility and low rates of income and education.
The high and high-middle SDI countries form 35% of the new cancer cases in 2017. Also, these make up 18% of DALYs. While low-middle and low SDI countries make up 60% of DALYs and 38% of the cancer cases in the children.
In 2017, the burden from childhood cancers (11.5 million DALYs) was only lower to that of lung, liver, stomach, colon, and breast cancers in adults. And blood cancers were globally leading to 34% of the childhood cancer burden, while 18% of the burden was due to cancers of the brain and nervous system.
The study has also shown that cancers in children grow more rapidly and are deadly if not detected early. It tells the importance of early detection and cure in reducing the worldwide burden caused by cancers in children.
Early diagnosis can bring a huge reduction in illness and death caused by childhood cancers. For this purpose, it is essential to have access to improved diagnostic and care services.