Childhood Cancer Considerably Underdiagnosed Worldwide

Numbers of undiagnosed cases varied from 3 percent in western Europe to 57 percent in western Africa

TUESDAY, March 5, 2019 (HealthDay News) — There is considerable underdiagnosis of childhood cancer, especially in south Asia and areas of Africa, according to a study published online Feb. 26 in The Lancet Oncology.

Zachary J. Ward, M.P.H., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues simulated childhood cancer incidence for 200 countries and territories worldwide using a microsimulation model. The model was calibrated to publicly available cancer registry data to ensure model results were consistent with epidemiological data.

The researchers estimated there were 397,000 incident cases of childhood cancer worldwide in 2015; of these, only 224,000 were diagnosed, suggesting that 43 percent of childhood cancer was undiagnosed globally. There was considerable variation by region in terms of undiagnosed cases, varying from 3 percent in western Europe and North America to 57 percent in western Africa. The overall proportion of undiagnosed cases was estimated to be 49 percent in south Asia. After accounting for population projections, the investigators predicted an estimated 6.7 million cases of childhood cancer from 2015 to 2030. At current levels of health system performance, an estimated 2.9 million cases of childhood cancer will be missed.

“Our findings highlight the need for continued investment in health systems to address the underdiagnosis and large hidden incidence of childhood cancer, and the importance of expanding cancer registration to track progress towards the goal of universal access and treatment,” the authors write.

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