Child and Teen Cancer Deaths Declined 24% Over 20 Years: CDC

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Nov. 17. 2023 – The cancer death rate for children and young people up to age 19 went down 24% from 2001 to 2021, the CDC reported.

The death rate went from 2.75 per 100,000 to 2.10 per 100,000 over that time span. 

Brain cancer was the most common type of cancer that caused death in this age group in 2021. It had a death rate 23% higher than for leukemia and more than twice the death rate for bone and cartilage cancer. 

Before 2001, leukemia was the deadliest form of cancer for that age group. Leukemia death rates for young people dropped 47% from 2001 to 2021. 

Stephen Skapek, MD, medical director of the Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Health, told NBC News that advancements in immunotherapy treatments could explain the drop in leukemia deaths. 

But the declines did not happen among all age and demographic groups. Only children up to age 9 saw “significant” declines from 2011 to 2021, and only White children saw big declines in the death rate after 2011, the CDC said. 

The 2021 death rate for cancer was 2.38 per 100,000 for Black youths, 2.36 for Hispanic youths, and 1.99 for White youths, the CDC said. 

“You can have the most sophisticated scientific advances, but if we can’t deliver them into every community in the same way, then we have not met our goal as a nation,” Sharon Castellino, MD, a pediatric cancer specialist at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta, told The Associated Press. She was not involved in the report.

The report is based on data from the National Vital Statistics System, which tracks death certificate information from across the United States.