Concern might be a reasonable reaction if you saw the headline recently that read “Brain Cancer Now Deadliest For U.S. Children.” In fact, the CDC reported last week that the number of deaths from pediatric brain tumors has increased in the past 15 years — from 516 in 1999 to 534 in 2014. Those 18 additional fatal cases represents a 3% increase which, while concerning, does not explain its new position in the number one spot for deadliest childhood cancers. Hidden in the headline is some really good news: modern medicine has gotten better at treating the former number one cause of pediatric cancer deaths. David Beasley explains how blood-related cancers have been dethroned:
In 1999, nearly one in three children who died of cancer had leukemia, while brain cancer caused the deaths of one in four.
By 2014, the numbers had reversed, researchers found comparing death rates from pediatric cancers in these years.
“Forms of leukemia that a generation ago were almost universally fatal are now almost universally curable,” said Sally Curtin, an author of the report, in a telephone interview.
Overall, cancer death rates for children dropped 20 percent from 1999, continuing a trend that started in the mid 1970s, according to the National Center for Health Statistics study.
Science is getting better at finding cures for all kinds of diseases, including cancer. We must not let down our guard as we search for their causes and develop strategies for prevention.