Childhood cancer: the facts

Cancer is terrible, but especially so in a child. It kills more children than any other disease in Australia1 and each death represents at least 65 years of life lost from normal expectancy.2 By definition, children’s cancers are cancers in patients younger than 15 years old.2 


  • Each year, over 950 children and adolescents (0-19 year olds) in Australia4 – and 163,000 children worldwide3 – are diagnosed with cancer.
  • Cancer incidence among Australian children and adolescents is higher in boys (average of 567 per year) than in girls (average of 453 per year).4
  • One-third of cancers in children and adolescents are diagnosed in children aged 0–4.4


  • Every week, nearly 3 children and adolescents in Australia4 – and 1,500 children worldwide3 – die from cancer.
  • 40% of deaths result from tumours of the central nervous system (including brain tumours), 23% from leukaemia and 11% from neuroblastoma.8

Survival rates

  • Sixty years ago, cancer was nearly always a death sentence for a child.5 Today, 8 out of 10 children survive.1 However, these improvements are not even across cancer types. Survival rates for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia are now 90%, but brain cancer survival rates have sat at about 50% for decades.1
  • More than 20,000 young Australians have survived childhood cancer but 4 out of 5 experience at least one physical or mental health issue - so-called 'late effects' of treatment. Physical effects include heart disease, osteoporosis and obesity. Psychological effects such as anxiety and depression are reported by almost 50% of survivors.6

The disease

  • The most common childhood cancers in Australia are acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, brain cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.1
  • Unlike many adult cancers, childhood cancer is not associated with lifestyle and nothing can be done to prevent it.7
  • Individual causes remain unknown for more than 90 per cent of childhood cancer cases.7
  • Almost half of all childhood cancer begins in the womb.7
  • Childhood cancer does not discriminate. It can affect any child from any socioeconomic or cultural background.7

The solution

  • Children’s Cancer Institute is the only independent medical research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancer.
  • Advances in knowledge and treatment found through medical research have delivered the improved survival rates we see today.
  • Only medical research will give hope to the tens of thousands children worldwide who are diagnosed with cancer each year.
  • Every child is unique, every cancer is different, so the cure has to be targeted for each individual.
  • We believe personalised medicine is the key to improving survival, saving lives and giving children with cancer the best possible quality of life.