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November 17, 2023

Cancer death rate among kids and teens has declined by 24%, CDC says

Fatalities have been decreasing for decades thanks to improving treatments

Children's Health Cancer
Childhood cancer rates Valery Sharifulin/TASS; Sipa USA

Cancer rates have declined for all children and teens between the ages of 0 and 19. Girls saw even greater drops.

Fewer children are dying of cancer, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC found a 24% decrease in death rates among all kids and teens in the U.S. between 2001 and 2021. The declines were most dramatic for girls, whose cancer death rate dropped by 30% over that 20-year period. The rate for boys decreased by 19%.

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The report reveals some racial disparities, as the cancer death rate was lowest for white children. According to the CDC, the rate was about 15-16% lower for white kids than their Black and Hispanic peers by 2021. Hispanic children did see steady declines over the study period, but the rate for Black children increased slightly between 2011 and 2021 after an initial drop between 2001 and 2011.

Vast improvements have been made in childhood leukemia cases. The death rate for leukemia, which was the most common cancer killing kids and teens in 2001, decreased by 47% over two decades. This decline has made leukemia the second-deadliest cancer for youth. Brain cancer has now surpassed it, though the death rate for this type of cancer still declined by 11% between 2011 and 2021.

These numbers contribute to a steady decline in deaths from childhood cancers that has been observed since the 1970s. The trend is usually attributed to improved treatments, as well as greater youth participation in clinical trials. One 2021 study estimated that somewhere between 717,000 and 2.87 million people under the age of 18 were enrolled in active trials. New advancements in immunotherapies also may have contributed to the striking drop in leukemia death rates, according to oncologists.

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