Childhood cancer

What is childhood cancer?

The types of cancers that occur in children and the way they respond to treatment can be different from cancers that occur in adolescents or adults. Some types of childhood cancer tend to appear in very young children and others in older children. 

Every year, over 1,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer in Australia. To put that into context, that’s roughly ten times the population of the average daycare centre. The Australian Childhood Cancer Registry (ACCR) notes that cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death for those aged 1-14 years. Unfortunately, it is still considered a rare cancer and is often an underfunded area of research. New data systems for childhood cancer are necessary to achieve better patient outcomes, improve quality of care, and inform decision-making bodies in public health.

What are the risks associated with childhood cancer?

Age is not really considered a risk factor, although it has been noted that the incidence of some cancers varies with age. Family history is also important to note because a few childhood cancers run in families. Some chronic infections such as malaria and HIV have been known to increase a child’s risk of cancer, while other infections have been known to increase a child’s risk of developing cancer as an adult. Vaccinations against hepatitis B and HPV help prevent cancer of the liver and cervical cancer respectively.

What are the types of childhood cancer?

  • Leukaemia

  • Brain and other central nervous system tumours

  • Hodgkin lymphoma

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

  • Neuroblastoma

  • Soft tissue sarcoma

  • Kidney tumours

  • Melanoma

  • Bone tumours

  • Gem cell tumours

  • Retinoblastoma

  • Liver tumours

What are the common symptoms of childhood cancer?

Cancer in children can be difficult to detect and diagnose, so it is important to have regular checkups with the GP. Childhood cancer has been associated with a wide range of symptoms that may include:

  • Fever

  • Severe headaches

  • Blurred vision

  • Unusual bumps and swelling

  • Easy bruising

  • Bone pain

  • Weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of energy and appetite

Screening for children is generally not beneficial although it differs in some cases. Early detection and accurate diagnosis are essential so that it can be treated promptly.


Our childhood cancer researchers

Together, we can cure cancer.

Let's stay in touch

To receive updates on our work, campaigns and our impact in cancer research, subscribe to our newsletter.