Sunday 11 December 2016

Children more likely to beat cancer than teens and young adults

Published 27/05/2016 | 02:30

'Children have a better chance of surviving eight common types of cancer than adolescents and young adults'. Stock photo: Getty
'Children have a better chance of surviving eight common types of cancer than adolescents and young adults'. Stock photo: Getty

Children have a better chance of surviving eight common types of cancer than adolescents and young adults, according to a major European survey published today.

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It should be noted, however, that more young people of all ages are surviving cancer than ever before.

Variations in survival between age groups are due to a number of factors.

These include delays in diagnosis and treatment, a lack of treatment guidelines and clinical trials specifically for teenagers and young adults, as well as differences in the biology of some cancers, according to the findings in 'The Lancet' medical journal.

"The good news is that the number of children, adolescents and young adults surviving for at least five years after diagnosis has risen steadily over time in Europe," said lead author Dr Annalisa Trama at The National Institute of Cancer in Milan, Italy.

"Across all cancers, the level of improvement is similar in these age groups. This contrasts with earlier results that adolescents and young adults diagnosed up to the 1990s were lagging behind children in terms of survival.

"However, we found that adolescents and young adults still tend to die earlier than children for several cancers common to these age groups, particularly blood cancers like leukaemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma."

The European study found lower survival rates in older versus younger child patients in acute lymphoid leukaemia (55.6pc vs 85.8pc), acute myeloid leukaemia (49.8pc vs 60.5pc), Hodgkin's lymphoma (92.9pc vs 95.1pc), astrocytoma (a type of brain tumour; 46.4pc vs 61.9pc), Ewing's sarcoma of bone (49.3pc vs 66.6pc), rhabdomyosarcoma (cancer of soft tissue; 37.8pc vs 66.6pc), and osteosarcoma (61.5pc vs 66.8pc).

The trend is reflected in Ireland and it is now widely accepted that traditional models of cancer care are not adequately meeting the needs of the adolescent and young adult population, said Prof Owen Smith, cancer specialist in Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin.

There are about 80 cases of child and young adult cancers in the 16-24 year age group each year in Ireland. The outcome for children with leukaemia here is the best in Europe and the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is 94pc.

He said lower rates of survival in adolescents and young adults are most likely due to several factors including poor adherence to medication, lower involvement in clinical trials the influence of puberty. And "most importantly complex psychological factors".

He has proposed the soon-to- be published national cancer strategy, covering 2015-2025, set up a network between Crumlin hospital and the eight adult cancer centres to promote better cancer healthcare.

Irish Independent

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