Cancer deaths rates in children among lowest in Europe
DEATH rates for Irish children who develop cancer are now among the lowest in Europe.
Ireland's success is only outranked by Switzerland and Austria while overall incidence of the disease in children here is also close to the European average, the National Cancer Registry said in a new report.
Figures show that around 61 children a year were dying of the disease in the 1960s but this fell to 21 in the decade up to 2010 as better diagnosis, treatments and medical expertise became available. The five-year survival rate is now around 80pc.
Boys are more likely be to diagnosed with cancer than girls with male incidence rates 14pc higher. There are around 196 cases of cancer diagnoses in children and teenagers under the age of 20 annually and 128 of these are under the age of 15.
Leukaemia is the most frequently diagnosed form of the disease. This is followed by brain and central nervous system tumours and lymphomas.
Between 1994 and 2011, an average of eight boys and five girls were diagnosed with lymphoma each year, and incidence rates in boys were significantly higher than in girls.
Incidence rates of children's cancers varied little between the four health regions in Ireland but they were highest in the HSE Dublin and Mid-Leinster region, which has the highest population density.
The incidence of brain and lymphoma was highest in the HSE Southern region and in Dublin and Mid Leinster.
Most children diagnosed with lymphoma were older, particularly in the case of Hodgkin lymphoma which was more frequent in children over 10 years.
Leukaemia has represented just under one-third of all cancers since 1994. There was a slight decline over time in the relative proportion of lymphoma, from representing 12pc of all cancers up to 2005 to 8pc in 2006-2011.
There was an initial decline in incidence rates of brain and lymphoma cancer with numbers falling from 40 patients diagnosed in 1994 to 21 patients in 1999. However, rates subsequently increased by an average 2.7pc per year. Patient numbers in 2011 were similar to those recorded in the mid 1990s.
Chemotherapy was the principal treatment for all paediatric cancers, either on its own or with surgery or radiotherapy.
The report pointed out that overall death rates for children's cancers in Ireland were at their highest levels during the late 1950s and 1960s.