Fewer children are dying of cancer in the United States.
And that’s despite the fact more children are being diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease.
That’s what the latest statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are showing.
Officials at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics report that the cancer death rate for children declined 20 percent from 1999 to 2014.
The rate declined from 2.84 per 100,000 to 2.28 per 100,000 children.
CDC officials noted the cancer death rate for both boys and girls decreased during that time period, although the boys’ rate was 30 percent higher than the rate for girls.
Declines were also seen in both Caucasian and African-American children, as well as among all five-year age groups.
CDC officials said the decreases came despite a slight increase in the incidence of a half-dozen of the most common cancers.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that 10,380 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year in children under the age of 15. About 1,250 children are expected to die from the disease.
Brain cancer now top killer
In 1999, 1 in 3 children with cancer died from leukemia.
That same year, about 1 in 4 children with cancer died from brain cancer.
In 2014, those numbers were reversed with brain cancer responsible for almost 30 percent of cancer deaths among children.
Leukemia and brain cancer still account for slightly more than half of all children’s cancer deaths in the United States.
However, the number of children who died from leukemia dropped from 645 in 1999 to 445 in 2014.
The number of children who died of brain cancer was about the same — 516 in 1999 and 534 in 2014.
Advancements in treatments
Elizabeth Ward, senior vice president of national research at the American Cancer Society, said the improvement in treatments is the main reason for the drop in child cancer death rates.
She said this is particularly true for leukemia and chemotherapy.
Ward said chemotherapy treatments can be administrated directly into the bloodstream of young cancer patients, attacking leukemia at its source.
She said chemotherapy treatments are now more effective and they also have fewer side effects, which allow the therapy to be given to more children.
Brain cancer is more difficult to treat.
In treating this cancer, doctors have to worry more about damaging healthy surrounding tissue, Ward said.
In addition, there can be obstacles in chemotherapy overcoming the blood-brain barrier, which can prevent substances such as anticancer drugs from entering the brain.
Ward said she expects to see more advances in the near future in the treatments of most types of cancer in children.
She said all cancer treatment is important, but curing children of the disease has a special meaning because of the young age of the patients.
“A parent dealing with a child with cancer is something we can all relate to,” said Ward. “It’s a devastating disease to the child, the parents, and the entire family.”