Childhood Cancers: Facts & Figures

Incidence in Minnesota:

In recent years, an average of 170 cases of cancer (all types) were diagnosed in Minnesota children each year.

All childhood cancer types in Minnesota

Age-adjusted rates of new cancer diagnoses in children age 0 to 14 years.
Age-adjusted rates of new cancer diagnoses in children age 0 to 14 years.

The rate of childhood cancer has varied somewhat over time, in part due to the relatively small number of cases of childhood cancer, but there are no apparent increasing or decreasing trends.


All childhood cancer types, by region

Age-adjusted rates of new cancer diagnoses in children age 0 to 14 years, aggregated from 2003 to 2012.
Age-adjusted rates of new cancer diagnoses in children age 0 to 14 years, aggregated from 2003 to 2012.

The overall childhood cancer incidence rate varied somewhat across Minnesota regions, but there were no significant differences from the statewide incidence rate. The Minnesota average age-adjusted incidence rate of childhood cancer over the last 10 years was 15.8 new cases per 100,000 children.


Childhood leukemia in Minnesota

Age-adjusted rates of new leukemia diagnoses in children age 0 to 14 years.
Age-adjusted rates of new leukemia diagnoses in children age 0 to 14 years.

Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer in Minnesota and in the U.S. The rate of childhood leukemia varied somewhat over time, in part due to the relatively small number of cases, but no significant trends have been identified. From 2008 to 2012, the age-adjusted incidence rate of leukemia was 4.4 new cases per 100,000 children. 


Childhood leukemia, by region

Age-adjusted rates of new leukemia diagnoses in children age 0 to 14 years, aggregated from 2003 to 2012.
Age-adjusted rates of new leukemia diagnoses in children age 0 to 14 years, aggregated from 2003 to 2012.

The overall childhood leukemia incidence rate varied somewhat across Minnesota regions, but there were no significant differences from the statewide incidence rate. The average age-adjusted incidence rate of childhood leukemia was 4.4 new cases per 100,000 children over the last 10 years.


Childhood acute myeloid leukemia in Minnesota

Age-adjusted rates of new AML diagnoses in children aged 0-14 years.
Age-adjusted rates of new AML diagnoses in children aged 0-14 years.

The rate of childhood AML has a large amount of variation (many peaks and valleys) because the rates are based on small numbers (<10 cancers per year). For this reason, AML rates are presented in three-year groupings to increase precision of the incidence rates. Each year there are about 5 to 10 cases of AML diagnosed each year in Minnesota children.


Childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia in Minnesota

Age-adjusted rates of new ALL diagnoses in children aged 0 to 14 years.
Age-adjusted rates of new ALL diagnoses in children aged 0 to 14 years.

The overall rate of childhood ALL has been about 3.8 cases per 100,000 children per year since 1988. Most of the cases of leukemia in children in Minnesota are this type. Each year, there are about 40 new cases of ALL diagnosed in Minnesota children.


Childhood brain & other nervous system cancer in Minnesota

Age-adjusted rates of new brain & other nervous system cancer diagnoses in children aged 0-14 years.
Age-adjusted rates of new brain & other nervous system cancer diagnoses in children aged 0-14 years.

The age-adjusted incidence rate of childhood brain cancer has been relatively stable since 1988, with an average of 3.2 new cases per 100,000 children per year since 1988. Each year there are about 30 to 40 brain & other nervous system cancers diagnosed in Minnesota children. Beginning in 2012, MCSS collected data on cancers that were clinically diagnosed via radiography, CAT scans, and MRIs. Prior to that, data was collected only on tissue-confirmed cases. Increases in rates in 2012 are due to this change in data collection. 


What is childhood cancer?

Childhood cancer is defined here as the diagnosis of cancer in an individual aged 14 years and younger. It is sometimes defined as cancer among an individual aged 19 years and younger. About 170 children in Minnesota and nearly 11,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year. Although major treatment advances have dramatically improved 5-year relative survival to about 80%, cancer is the leading cause of death due to illness in children under age 15.

The most commonly diagnosed childhood cancers (in descending order) are leukemias, brain & other nervous system tumors, cancer of the soft tissues, lymphoma, and kidney cancer. Because the most common types of childhood cancers are different from the cancers most frequently occurring in adults, researchers believe that the causes may also be quite different.

What are the risk factors for childhood cancers?

In spite of many research studies on childhood cancers, identifying potential causes or risk factors for childhood cancers has been challenging.

  • Ionizing radiation is a risk factor for most types of cancer. 
  • A few rare genetic conditions can increase the risk of childhood cancer.

These are the only established risk factors but account for very few childhood cancers. Distinct patterns or trends in age, sex, and race exist for a number of the childhood cancers, but their cause is not understood. Causes might not be limited to exposures during the child's life; for example, some exposures associated with cancer may occur during pregnancy or before conception.

How can childhood cancers be prevented?

Because so few risk factors for childhood cancers are known, there is limited information available about effective strategies to prevent these cancers.