On Friday the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) informed that leukemia had been replaced as the leading cause of death among kids by brain cancer. The organization reported leukemia cases had dropped, and brain cancer numbers remain the same.

The NCHS, which is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), informed that since 1999 leukemia cases in kids declined in the United States thanks to the technological advances made. The reports indicated that brain cancer cases are not becoming more common but remain at the same levels, and the death rate for cancer in kids has dropped by 20 percent since 1999.

According to David Arons, who is the CEO of the National Brain Tumor Society, pediatric brain tumor numbers are not bigger and have not become deadlier, they have stayed flat. Image Credit: News Clip

Children & Cancer rates 

Cancer has been the most common death cause among children for the past 17 years in the United States, but according to the NCHS, the recent report brings good news to the medical world. Thanks to technological advances leukemia drop as the second leading cause of death and brain cancer are now the main concern.

The NCHS informs that as of 2014, 15,780 kids and adolescents between zero to nineteen years will be diagnosed with a form of cancer and 1,960 children will die because of the disease.

It is known that boys tend to be more susceptible to developing a kind of cancer than girls, but researchers are still arguing on why does that happen. However, researchers note that the disease can present in both black and white children without any disparity.

Child cancer is one of the main focuses of researchers, as they try to understand why the disease develops and have confirmed that in the vast majority of cases it’s not inherited except a form of eye cancer, that develops from an inherited gene.

According to the report published by the NCHS, in 1999 and 2014 one-half of all cancer rates involving children have been attributed to leukemia and brain cancer among kids between one and nineteen years old.

In 2014 the rates were inverted, making brain cancer the leading cause of death among children and alerting the health industry.

However between these years one in three kids died because of leukemia and one out of four died due to brain cancer, the rates shocked physicians and the pharmaceutical industry, making leukemia their main target.

“Forms of leukemia that a generation ago was almost universally fatal are now almost universally curable,” informed Sally Curtin, who is the author of the NCHS report to the Huffington post in an interview.

The NCHS reports death rates caused by cancer fell over 20 percent between 1999 and 2014, which was initially 2.85  among 100,000 kids and as for 2014 is 2.28 among the same amount of children.

“The declines were broad, across all the age groups males, and females, for both white and black children. That in and out of itself is noteworthy because so many health outcomes have disparities,” explained lead author Curtin.

Leukemia vs. Brain cancer 

According to the report, survival rates among pediatric leukemia patients have improved significantly. In 1975 only 50 percent of diagnosed patients had a five-year-survival rate and between 2004 and 2015, that rate increased to almost 80 percent.

These rates include pediatric non-Hodgkin lymphoma that has improved from 50 percent in the 70s to almost 90 percent in between 2003 to 2009.

Even though, both forms of cancer are aggressive on kids leukemia is more treatable since it’s a blood disease that can be treated through it, applying therapy into the patient’s blood and the bone. This has made physicians focus on more elaborate treatments for young patients.

However, brain cancer is more complicated because of its location and the risks that physicians can face when going into surgery. Brain tumors are more difficult because of the blood-brain barrier,  Katherine Warren who is the head of pediatric neuro- oncology at the National Cancer Institute, told the Huffington Post.

The blood-brain barrier is in charge of protecting people’s central nervous system from toxins, which makes it harder to apply a chemotherapy into a brain cancer patient.

The advances on pediatric brain tumors have not been the same that in pediatric blood cancer, in fact, the methods between 1999 and 2014 have not advanced as much, and patients can’t benefit from them.

Several experts find the number of brain cancer rates “unacceptable,” including Ann Kingston who is the director of research at the National Brain Tumor Society. Kingston told The Washington Post that the rates could be lower if science focused on using the molecular profiling of tumors, which is a method used to identify the medication accepted by the patient’s brain.

Nonetheless, researchers are excited about leukemia cases dropping and conclude that more research and effort needs to be made into brain cancer to reduce those rates as well.

The NCHS also reports that other leading forms of pediatric cancer rates include Bone and cartilage cancer, Thyroid and endocrine and mesothelial and soft tissue cancer in a 7.7 percent.

Source: CDC