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Inequalities in access to care causing thousands of unnecessary childhood cancer deaths

On International Childhood Cancer Day 2015, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) are showcasing new findings showing a $50 per child investment into paediatric cancer services could lead to dramatic increases in disease survival rates in the world’s poorest countries.1

Childhood cancers are responsible for an estimated 90,000 deaths per year, devastating families throughout the world. Though, significantly 85% of the 175,000 children who develop cancer each year live in the developing world, most of whom will sadly receive no treatment and die as a result of their condition.2

In high-income countries, most children with cancer (80% or more) are cured of their disease with the promise of many productive life-years ahead of them. Conversely, whilst treatment in low-income countries has been shown to be effective; late diagnosis and poor access to life saving treatments, mean cure rates are much lower, often 10% or less.

“There is a critical need to redress the inequalities in access to care that currently exist for children with cancer. Thousands of young people in the developing world are dying unnecessarily as adequate investments into detection measures and treatments have not been made,” stressed Dr Sumit Gupta, lead author of the Childhood Cancers chapter of Disease Control Priorities (DCP) Volume 6 and Staff Oncologist, Division of Haematology/Oncology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. “Increasing funding and service provision for childhood cancers in low-and middle-income countries saves lives and makes economic sense – investment in tackling these diseases is the equivalent of being able to cure breast cancer in terms of productive life-years saved.”

Removing the care inequalities that exist in childhood cancer should be a key health and development priority. Latest research1 suggests that increased funding to introduce adapted treatment regimens and paediatric oncology services in developing world countries could dramatically raise survival rates from 10 – 50%. Leading scientists and economists predict this can be achieved through increased investment of $50 per child.

“Increasing childhood cancer survival rates is critical not only to the families of those affected, but to societies at large. Survivors not only support national productivity, but the spill-over effects of success also benefit adult cancer services – young survivors drive awareness, bust myths and become advocates for policy change,” commented Professor Tezer Kutluk, President of UICC and Professor of Paediatrics and Paediatric Oncologist, Turkey. “On International Childhood Cancer Day, UICC calls on governments of low-and middle-income countries to make a smart 50 for 50 investment and set-up national childhood cancer control plans to improve detection and care, and ultimately save important young lives.”

In collaboration with Childhood Cancer International and the International Society of Paediatric Oncology, UICC has also spearheaded a campaign targeted at primary and community healthcare workers to raise awareness of early ‘Signs and Symptoms’ of childhood cancer. On the occasion of International Childhood Cancer Day 2015, the campaign will be scaling-up with the launch of a series of expert films narrated by doctors, a nurse, a cancer survivor and a parent to help improve early diagnosis of cancer, particularly in low-income countries where need is greatest.


[1] World Cancer Congress, 3-6 December 2014: http://www.worldcancercongress.org/sessions/DCP-reducing-premature-deaths-cancer. Last accessed Feb 2015

[2] DCP3: Disease Control Priorities, Third Edition, Volume 6 Cancer. Chapter 7: Childhood Cancers. http://www.dcp-3.org/node/900. Last accessed Feb 2015

Source: Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)