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Childhood cancer statistics

Childhood cancer is relatively uncommon. However, it remains the most common disease-related cause of death – more than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined. It is second only to injury-related deaths among Canadian children.

Cancers in children act differently and are found in different organs in the body than those that are found in adults. In general, tumours in children often grow more quickly and spread to other parts of the body faster. Children are more likely to develop leukemia and lymphoma than adults.

Cancer in children creates a large impact on our health, economic and social welfare systems. It also places a burden on the child with cancer and their family. An estimated two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors will have at least one chronic or long-term side effect from their cancer treatment. As more children survive cancer, the need for long-term monitoring and follow-up care will continue to grow.

It can take several years to collect and confirm cancer data, so the number of new cancer cases and deaths from recent years may not be available for some time. The most recent data available are provided.

Incidence and mortality

Incidence is the total number of new cases of cancer. Mortality is the number of deaths due to cancer.

Between 2009 and 2013, there were 4,715 new cases of cancer in children 0–14 years of age in Canada, an average of 943 cases per year.

Between 2008 and 2012, there were 595 cancer deaths in children 0–14 years of age in Canada, an average of 119 deaths per year.

Trends

Childhood cancer accounts for less than 1% of all new cancer cases in Canada.

The 3 types of cancer that account for the majority of new cancer cases in children 0–14 years of age in Canada are:

  • leukemia – 32%
  • brain and central nervous system – 19%
  • lymphomas – 11%

The 3 types of cancer that account for the majority of cancer death in children 0–14 years of age in Canada are:

  • brain and central nervous system – 34%
  • leukemia – 26%
  • neuroblastoma and other peripheral nervous cell tumours – 11%

Cancer in adolescents and young adults

Cancer in adolescents and young adults (15–29 years of age) account for less than 0.5% of all cancer deaths in Canada. The types of cancer found in this age group are similar to those found in children, as well as cancers that are like those that are found in adults. This makes diagnosis and treatment in this age group difficult.

Between 2006 and 2010, the most common types of cancer found in adolescents and young adults (15–29 years of age) were:

  • thyroid – 16%
  • testicular – 13%
  • Hodgkin lymphoma – 12%
  • melanoma – 8%

Between 2006 and 2010, the cancers that account for the majority of cancer deaths in adolescents and young adults (15–29 years of age) were:

  • leukemia – 17%
  • brain and central nervous system – 15%
  • bone – 11%

An average of 290 people in Canada between the ages of 15 and 29 die from cancer each year. Young men are more likely to die than young women in this age range.

For more information, go to Canadian Cancer Statistics publication.

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