Mortality from childhood cancer decreasing


Cancer during childhood is a life-threatening disease that develops rapidly and affects about 20000 patients in the EU every year. Since childhood cancer requires early and intensive treatment, fewer deaths from the disease (mortality) may reflect the overall impact of factors contributing to favourable outcomes. Such factors may be health expenditures, childhood cancer awareness, access to care, capacities, and availability of effective anti-cancer medicines.
Over the recent decades following the seminal demonstration that childhood cancer can successfully be treated, survival outcomes improved and conversely mortality decreased. For example, mortality descreased from 70-80 per million person years in 1962 to about 20 in 2002 cancer during childhood (birth to less than 15 years) in the US and certain countries in Europe .


The purpose of this post is to continue the analysis with the latest available data. The WHO mortality database (MDB) is used for this analysis. Data from 14 Member States of the European Union could be included. The mortality figures are presented across sexes and countries. Data for children from birth to 19 years of age were included. These age-standardised figures were averaged across countries weighted by the inverse of the standard deviation of a country"s figures across years. For commenting, the R code is included.


The WHO is responsible only for the provision of the original information (the MDB) and is acknowledged as the source of the published data. However, the author of this blog is responsible for all analyses, interpretations and conclusions using the published data.


Fewer children die from cancer every year, and this trend seems slow yet continuous in Europe.

plot of chunk knitrsetup

Plotted data

For the plot above, data of a variable number of countries were available:



Factors contributing to reduce childhood cancer mortality may be identified and strengthened. Quality of survival is more and more important. Initiatives are ongoing to improve the outcomes of children across the globe and of young adults.

European Health Information explorer

The figure above can be compared with an official automated analysis of the WHO Europe databases as follows. Using these databases, the standardised death rate (SDR) from a malignant neoplasm (deaths per 100000) in the European Union population from 1 to 19 years (that is, less than 20 years) is shown below.


Sullivan, Richard, Jerzy R Kowalczyk, Bharat Agarwal, Ruth Ladenstein, Edel Fitzgerald, Ronald Barr, Eva Steliarova-Foucher, et al. 2013. “New Policies to Address the Global Burden of Childhood Cancers.” The Lancet Oncology, February.
Pritchard-Jones, Kathy, Rob Pieters, Gregory H Reaman, Lars Hjorth, Peter Downie, Gabriele Calaminus, Marianne C Naafs-Wilstra, and Eva Steliarova-Foucher. 2013. “Sustaining Innovation and Improvement in the Treatment of Childhood Cancer: Lessons from High-Income Countries.” The Lancet Oncology 14 (3): e95–103.

2 thoughts on “Mortality from childhood cancer decreasing

    1. Thanks, Dave. I see data was added for 2017, but just for one European country; will update the post once more countries’ data have become available.

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