Most Common Cancer Types in Children

Although Cancer is relatively rare in children accounting for just 0.5% of all cancers, around 1 in 500 children in Britain will develop some form of cancer by 14 years of age.

Childhood cancers (affecting those under the age of 15) are generally very different to those seen in adults


Bone Cancer
Around 4% of childhood cancers are malignant tumours of the bone. There a number of different types of bone cancer but the young are more likely to develop osteosarcoma and Ewings sarcoma. Both boys and girls are similarly affected. Under the age of three, Osteosarcoma is extremely rare; incidence increases with age. 70% of osteosarcomas are diagnosed in 10-14 year-olds.   Primary bone cancer is different from metastatic bone cancer, which is cancer that started somewhere else in the body and has spread to the bone.

x-ray of open handTwo main types of primary bone cancers occur in children:  Osteosarcoma is most common in teens, and usually develops in areas where the bone is growing quickly, such as near the ends of the long bones in the legs or arms. It often causes bone pain that gets worse at night or with activity. It can also cause swelling in the area around the bone.

Ewing sarcoma is a less common type of bone cancer, which can also cause bone pain. It is most often found in young teens. The most common places for it to start are the bones in the pelvis, the chest wall (such as the ribs or shoulder blades), or in the middle of the long leg bones.

Brain & other central nervous system tumours
These are the second most common cancers in children and the most common solid tumour cancer in childhood.  Most common in the young are astrocytomas and ependymomas.   Astrocytomas constitute 43% of all brain and Central Nervous System tumours in children and equally affect boys and girls. 76% of astrocytomas are diagnosed as low grade and 15% as high grade.

Both malignant and non-malignant Brain Tumours form the second most common group of cancers in children, accounting for a quarter of all childhood cancers overall.

Benign Brain Tumours are tumours that don’t spread into and destroy other areas of the brain. Sometimes it’s difficult to remove a benign tumour because of its position within the brain but if it can be removed successfully it should not cause any further problems.

They can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred or double vision, dizziness, and trouble walking or handling objects.

Embryonal Tumours

Embryonal Tumours are very rare past childhood and most commonly affect children in the first few years of life.bacteria

There are four main types of Embryonal Tumour–

Neuroblastoma in the sympathetic nervous system  – This is the second most common solid tumour in children.  This type of cancer occurs in infants and young children and it is rarely found in children older than 10.  It usually starts in abdomen and is noticed as swelling although It can start around the spinal cord in the chest, neck, or pelvis . It can also cause bone pain and fever.

Retinoblastoma in the eye  – Retinoblastoma usually occurs in children around the age of 2, and is seldom found in children older than 6. It affects the retina, a thin membrane in the back of eye that works like a camera, making a picture of what we see. They are usually found because a parent or doctor notices a child’s eye looks unusual.  Some children have retinoblastoma that runs in families.

Nephroblastoma otherwise known as Wilms Tumour in the kidney – Wilms tumour starts in one, or sometimes, both kidneys. It is most often found in children about 3 to 4 years old, and is uncommon in children older than age 6. It is the most common type of kidney cancer in children but is very different from kidney cancer in adults.

It can show up as a swelling or lump in the belly (abdomen). Sometimes the child might have other symptoms, like fever, pain, nausea, or poor appetite.


Leukaemia is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in children, accounting for 31% of all cases. Leukaemia affects the normal production of white cells by the bone marrow. The most common types in children are ALL, (acute lymphoblastic leukemia)  and AML (acute myeloid leukemia- accounts for 15% of childhood leukaemias; highest incidence rates are in infants (under one-year-old).

Leukemia may cause bone and joint pain, fatigue, weakness, pale skin, bleeding or bruising, fever, weight loss, and other symptoms

Incidence peaks in boys at about three years old and girls at the age of  about two years, and subsequently decreases with age thereafter.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia – is the most common type of childhood leukaemia.

Acute myeloid Leukemia accounts for 15% of childhood leukaemias; highest incidence rates are in infants (under one-year-old)



Lymphomas account for a tenth of all cancers diagnosed in children and  is twice as high in boys.  Lymphomas are rare before the age of two, the incidence increases with age and eventually accounts for 19%  of all childhood cancers diagnosed in 10-14 year-olds.

Lymphomas can cause weight loss, fever, sweats, tiredness, and lumps (swollen lymph nodes) under the skin in the neck, armpit, or groin.

  • Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, affecting your lymphocytes.  The lymphatic system runs throughout your body and is part of the immune system. The most common place for it to be first noticed is in the lymph nodes in the neck. It is also quite common to find it in the liver or spleen.

  • Hodgkins Disease

Hodgkins disease is also a cancer of the lymphatic system, affecting the lymph nodes. Although they are very similar in many ways, the treatment for Non Hodgkins Lymphoma and Hodgkins lymphoma are quite different.

Malignant Melanoma

Melanoma is quite a rare type of skin cancer, although it’s becoming more common in the young. Malignant Melanomas account for 32% of carcinomas and melanomas

It‘s called melanoma because it starts in skin cells called melanocytes.

This is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children. It starts in cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles. (These are the muscles that we control to move parts of our body.) This type of cancer can start in the head and neck, groin, (abdomen), pelvis, or in an arm or leg. It may cause pain and swelling.
Soft Tissue Sarcomas
Soft tissue sarcomas are cancers of cartilage, blood vessels, fat cells and muscle. Usually affecting  the arms and legs, the head and neck, the chest and pelvis. Soft tissue sarcomas accounts for approximately 7% of all childhood cancers.  The incidence is similar in both boys and girls in early and late childhood, but is higher in boys between the ages of three and eight.
Testicular Cancer

The two main types of testicular cancer are teratomas and seminomas.

Germ cell tumours may occur in early boyhood or later in adolescence when cells in the testes begin to divide abnormally quickly.
Whilst testicular cancer is mostly associated with adults, young boys may be susceptible to the disease.

In infants and boys, testicular tumours account for approximately 1 to 2 percent of all tumors.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer in children is rare. In most people the first sign of thyroid cancer is a lump or swelling in the neck that gradually gets bigger. Survival rates among children diagnosed with thyroid cancer is nearly 95%.

There are four types of thyroid cancer:  Anaplastic, Papillary, Follicular and Medullary


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