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Cancer ravaging more children – WHO

More children are suffering from cancer across the world than previously thought, new estimates released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer have shown. 

Some 215,000 cancers are diagnosed every year in under 15-year-olds, and another 85,000 in 15-to-19-year-olds, according to data released by the agency, on the occasion to mark International Childhood Cancer day on February 15. 

The estimates are based on data collected by more than 100 population-based cancer registries in 68 countries around the world. The results found that while childhood cancer represents less than one per cent of all sickness in developed countries, the figure can be five times higher in poorer nations, where children may make up half of the population.

“The proportion of children dying from cancer in poorer countries is unacceptably high, especially when we have the example from richer countries as to what can be achieved through access to care,” IARC Director Dr Christopher Wild said. 

Inside the children's ward at the Cancer Institute

With access to quality care, more than 80 percent of children with cancer can survive, living full and healthy lives. However, many children in low-income and middle-income countries do not receive or complete care, and, as a result, over 90 percent of childhood cancer deaths occur in low-resource settings.

International Agency for Research on Cancer scientist Dr Eva Steliarova-Foucher said more attention should be devoted to Africa, Asia and Latin America where children have much worse outcomes than those who are diagnosed in Europe or North America. 

Almost half of childhood cancers are cancers of blood cells which include leukemia and lymphoma while the most frequent malignancies are tumors of the central nervous system and tumors that develop from sprouting tissues. 

However, although leukemia is the most commonly-diagnosed cancer in most world regions, representing around 35 per cent of childhood cancers, it is rarely diagnosed in sub-Saharan Africa. 

The International Agency for Research on Cancer says it’s not clear whether this is owing to missed diagnosis or other reasons, such as the belief that cancer is fatal, and, therefore, not treatable.

Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer that develops from the cells that line lymph or blood vessels, is the most common childhood cancer in African countries with a high prevalence of HIV infection, such as Uganda.

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