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Children's Health

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Childhood Cancers More Likely in Northeast

Study Shows That Geography Plays a Role in the Rate of Childhood Cancers
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 2, 2008 -- Children in the northeastern United States are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than kids who live anywhere else in the country, according to a study published in this month's edition of Pediatrics.

Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in children and teens in the U.S. Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer. However, the country's rate of childhood cancer, and geography variation, has not been well defined, according to background information in the journal article.

Researchers with the CDC in Atlanta identified and studied nearly 36,500 cases of childhood cancer to determine how a patient's physical characteristics (demographic information) and place of residence (geographic information) may play a role in the overall frequency of the disease. The cases were sorted by age, gender, race, ethnicity, and geography.

Jun Li, MD, PhD, MPH, of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC, and colleagues learned that the likelihood of developing any type of cancer during childhood was highest in the Northeast, followed by the Midwest, the West, and the South.

Specifically, the chance of being diagnosed with childhood cancer was:

  • Northeast: 179.12 per million
  • Midwest: 165.50 per million
  • West: 165.26 per million
  • South: 158.65 per million

Children living in the Northeast were diagnosed more often with lymphomas and tumors of the central nervous system than children in any other region.

The study is the first to show that there are substantial regional differences in the occurrence of childhood cancer. The team's findings also demonstrate that gender, age, race, and ethnicity also influence childhood cancer rates. For example, boys were more likely than girls to develop cancer, including lymphoid leukemia, osteosarcomas, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Kidney cancers, thyroid cancers, and malignant melanomas were among the more common malignancies in girls.

Other study findings:

  • Teens aged 15-19 were diagnosed more frequently with cancer than children aged 14 and younger.
  • Cancer was more common among whites than those of any other race.
  • Leukemias, central nervous system tumors, and lymphomas made up nearly 60% of childhood cancers.
  • The highest incidence rates of lymphoid leukemias, astrocytomas, nephroblastomas, and rhabdomyosarcomas were diagnosed among toddlers aged 1 to 4.
  • The highest incidence rates of acute myeloid leukemias, neuroblastomas, and retinoblastomas occurred among infants.

Researchers believe the study results will help in better understanding and tracking childhood cancers.

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