Child and teen cancer death rates in the United States have seen a significant decrease of 24% from 2001 to 2021, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study focused on death rates among Black, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic white youths, who accounted for 92% of all youth cancer deaths in 2021.
The analysis revealed that death rates declined for children of all ages within these racial groups between 2001 and 2011. However, it was only children aged 9 and younger who saw significant improvements after 2011. Interestingly, while all races experienced a decrease of 15-17% in cancer death rates within the first decade, it was only among white children that the decline continued to be significant after 2011.
The data also highlighted disparities in death rates among different racial groups. Between 2011 and 2021, the death rate for Hispanic youths only slightly decreased, while it actually increased for Black youths. In 2021, the death rate among white youths was found to be 19-20% lower compared to their Black and Hispanic peers.
Advancements in treatments, particularly immunotherapy, were speculated to contribute to the overall decline in cancer death rates among children and teenagers. Leukemia remained the most common cancer in children, with brain cancer being the leading cause of cancer deaths among youths in 2021. Notably, death rates due to leukemia showed a significant decrease of 47% between 2001 and 2021.
However, the report also highlighted the potential influence of limited access to cutting-edge cancer treatments or specialized treatment centers on differing death rates among white, Black, and Hispanic children with cancer. It called for a better understanding of the barriers to access and the need to address social determinants of health in childhood cancer patients, emphasizing the importance of further research in this area.
Overall, the study showed promising progress in reducing child and teen cancer deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades. However, the disparities among different racial and ethnic groups underscore the need for targeted interventions to ensure equitable access to life-saving treatments for all children fighting cancer.
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