A damning report in the Lancet has revealed that in 2017 globally, 11.5 million years of healthy life were lost due to childhood cancer.
Out of this figure and among countries with a large population, a high burden of the deaths come from India, Pakistan, China, Nigeria and the US, according to the first Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) to assess childhood and adolescent cancer burden published in The Lancet Oncology journal.
One of the most devastating findings from the report was that despite low global numbers of new cancer cases in children and adolescents in 2017 (416,50), most deaths occurred due to poor health and disabilities linked to treatment and fatal cancer.
Childhood Cancer Survival Rates Lower in Low and Middle-Income Countries
According to the report, children from lower-income countries face a disproportionately higher cancer burden at 82% of the global figure.
Unsurprisingly, children with cancer from higher income-countries had better survival rates, and the study revealed that about 80% of patients survived five years post their diagnosis. In low and middle-income countries, this figure sat at 35-40%, although some estimates go as low as 20%.
New Form of Measurement Shows Impact of Childhood Cancer
The report featured a new way of looking at childhood cancer burden holistically — beyond just the basic figures of incidence and survival — and instead looked at the number years of healthy life the child/adolescent loses due to cancer and its complications. This measurement is called disability-adjusted life years or DALYs, where one DALY is one year of healthy life lost. Since the research was only up to the first 10 years of the child’s life post their diagnosis, researchers say the real figures are potentially much higher, reported Science Daily.
"“By assessing the global burden of childhood cancer through the lens of disability-adjusted life-years, we can more comprehensively understand the devastating impact of cancer on children globally. Our findings are an important first step in establishing that childhood cancer has a role in frameworks that address global oncology and global child health.”" - Dr Lisa Force from St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, reported Science Daily.
The Lancet study also highlighted the importance of understanding childhood cancer better as the data revealed it was the “sixth leading cause of total cancer burden globally and the ninth leading cause of childhood disease burden globally.”
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