Population data on occurrence and pattern of childhood cancers in India comes mainly from population-based cancer registries (PBCRs) being run under the National Cancer Registry Programme of the Indian Council of Medical Research. In India, it is estimated that about 50,000 children and adolescents aged between 0 to 19 years will be diagnosed with cancer each year.
Cancer incidence rates for childhood cancers are generally expressed per million children. Delhi reported the highest incidence rates in the country in both boys and girls at 253.3 and 152.3/million, respectively as per statistics from 2012-14. The most commonly diagnosed cancer in children is leukemia, followed by lymphoma.
Cancer occurs due to a chance mutation and is not inherited. Having said that, we we know that 5% of all cancers in children are caused by an inherited mutation (a genetic mutation that can be passed from parents to their children). For example, 25 to 30 percent of cases of retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye that develops mainly in children, are caused by an inherited mutation in a gene called RB1. However, retinoblastoma accounts for only about 3 percent of all cancers in children.
Internationally most cancers have very good cure rates, for example in the USA in 2004-2010, more than 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer at age of 18 years survived for more than 5 years. In India, too, the past 10 years have seen tremendous advancement in cancer therapy.
With early diagnosis and proper treatment these results are achievable in our country as well. 15th February is celebrated as International Childhood Cancer Day every year across the world. The month of September is celebrated as Childhood Awareness month.
This month celebrates those who have successfully conquered this disease and remembers those who did not make it. It spotlights the problem and the solutions. It brings together all stakeholders who are fighting to address this problem.