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Medical Practice

Improvements in survival from childhood cancer: results of a population based survey over 30 years

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 14 May 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:1372
  1. J M Birch,
  2. H B Marsden,
  3. P H Morris Jones,
  4. D Pearson,
  5. V Blair


    Survival from cancer of children whose cancer was diagnosed during the 30 years 1954-83 was analysed. The study was population based with nearly 3000 cases covering about 30 million child years at risk. When survival during the three decades 1954-63, 1964-73, and 1974-83 was compared striking improvements were observed. For all childhood cancer five year survival increased from 21% in the first decade to 49% in the third decade. During the first and third decades five year survival rates for acute lymphocytic leukaemia increased from 2% to 47%, Hodgkin's disease from 44% to 91%, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma from 18% to 45%, Wilms's tumour from 31% to 85%, and germ cell tumours from 10% to 64%. Twenty patients developed second primary tumours, but otherwise there were few late deaths. Less than 1% of children who survived without a relapse for 10 years subsequently died of their initial cancer.

    Survival from childhood cancer is no longer rare, and people who have been cured of cancer during childhood should be accepted as normal members of society.

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