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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Harvard: Nearly Half of Childhood Cancers Worldwide Undiagnosed

Nearly half of all childhood cancers are not being diagnosed globally, according to a new modeling study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study found that, in 2015, there were 397,000 cases of childhood cancer worldwide, but only 224,000 were diagnosed. And if health systems around the world don’t improve, the researchers estimate that 2.9 million out of 6.7 million projected childhood cancer cases — 43 percent — will be missed between 2015 and 2030.

The study was published February 26 in Lancet Oncology.

View a video with the authors.

“Our model suggests that nearly one in two children with cancer are never diagnosed and may die untreated,” said lead author Dr. Zachary Ward, a doctoral student in health policy at Harvard Chan School. “This new model provides specific estimates of childhood cancer that have been lacking.”

Accurate estimates of childhood cancer incidence are needed to inform health policies, but many countries don’t have cancer registries that quantify this incidence. In addition, existing registries may underestimate the true incidence of childhood cancer, according to the authors.

In the new study, researchers developed a model to simulate childhood cancer incidence for 200 countries and territories worldwide. The model included data from cancer registries in countries where they exist. It also took into account trends in population growth and urbanization, geographical variation in cancer incidence, and health system barriers to access and referral that contribute to underdiagnosis.

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