Leukemia is a cancer which relates to the bone marrows and therefore towards blood cells and its contribution to all types of cancers in children is enormous. Thus, when considering all types of cancers occurring in children below the ages of 15 years, about 31% of it would be leukemia’s and when considering children below the ages of 20 years, the percentage drops to about 25%. Out of which, acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL would be the most predominant cancer among children which will be closely followed by acute non-lymphocytic leukemia.
But, it should be remembered that, when individual age limits are concerned, there is a marked rise and fall in the incidence of leukemia in which it accounts for sharp rise in the ages of 2 – 3 years and would gradually fall with the lowest detection at 9 – 10 years with a gradual rise thereafter till 19 years of age.
According to the statistics, it has been shown that, there is a moderate increase in the incidence of leukemia in children below 15 years of age in the past 20 years but, this did not alter the overall incidence of leukemias which either decreased or remained static.
When considering the statistics pertaining to survival from leukemia, it is worth mentioning that, the survival has increased up to 80% from late 1970s and with newer treatment modalities are being explored and tried, this incidence can rise further brining much needed relief to everyone concerned.
When considering the causes related to the development of ALL, maternal smoking during pregnancy, consumption of alcohol during pregnancy, exposure to certain drugs during the pre-natal period, post natal infections, genetic mutations, parental occupation and radiation exposure has been postulated as possible avenues. But, it should be stressed that, these avenues have not been proved beyond doubt and they need further evaluation in order to assess its statistical contribution to the development of childhood leukemia.
When considering other types of leukemia in children, AML or Acute Mayeloid Leukemia would be highest in the list and although it does not contribute to the cancer incidence as ALL, the prognosis is much poorer in AML than for ALL. This is depicted in the statistics as AML treatment beings about only 41% of survival benefit to these children as against 80% of survivors in ALL.
Reference: Cancer Incidence and Survival Among Children and Adolescents:
United States SEER Program 1975-1995