A World Health Organization (WHO) study published on Wednesday found a 13%increase in child cancers over the past 20 years.
This increase would be linked to better detection, but also to environmental factors, according to the World Health Organization. The frequency of cancers in children was 13% higher in the 2000s than in the 1980s.
Between 2001 and 2010, the incidence of cancers in children under 14 years was 140 cases per million children per year, estimates this international study, coordinated by the International Agency for Research against Cancer (IARC), the specialized agency of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Leukemia affects one-third of children with cancer.
The most common cancer in this age group is leukemia (almost a third of cases), followed by central nervous system tumors (20%) and lymphomas, the study said, analyzing about 300,000 cases diagnosed in 62 countries. “Some of this increase may be due to better or earlier detection of these cancers,” says IARC, without specifying in what proportion. But the increase in the incidence of pediatric cancers may also be influenced by “external factors, such as infections or certain pollutants present in the environment”, adds the research agency.
Cancer, a significant cause of death among adolescents (15-19 years), is estimated to be 185 cases per million people each year, the study, published in the British magazine “The Lancet Oncology”, adds. Lymphoma is the most frequent (23% of cases), in front of carcinomas and melanomas (skin cancers, 21%). “Cancer is a significant cause of death in children and adolescents, despite its relatively rare occurrence before the age of 20,” said Christopher Wild, director of IARC.
Under-estimated figures in poor countries.
He hopes the data from this study will help “raise awareness, better understanding and a better fight against this neglected area of early life.” The figures are probably still underestimated, especially in low-income countries, due to the under-reporting of cancer cases and the lack of diagnostic equipment, the IARC also points out.