Children, cancer, and nutrition--A dynamic triangle in review

Cancer. 2004 Feb 15;100(4):677-87. doi: 10.1002/cncr.11833.


The overall cure rate for cancer in childhood now exceeds 70% and is projected to reach 85% by the year 2010 in industrialized countries. Therefore, major attention is being placed on reducing the side effects of therapy. However, 85% of the world's children live in developing countries, where access to adequate care often is limited and health status frequently is influenced adversely by prevalent infectious diseases and malnutrition. Despite several confounding factors (different definitions of nutritional status, the wide variety of measures used for its assessment, the selection biases by disease and stage, treatment protocols of variable dose intensity and efficacy, small sample sizes of the studies conducted in the last 20 years), it is accepted that the prevalence of malnutrition at diagnosis averages 50% in children with cancer in developing countries; whereas, in industrialized countries, it is related to the type of tumor and the extent of the disease, ranging from < 10% in patients with standard-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia to 50% in patients with advanced neuroblastoma. The importance of nutritional status in children with cancer is related to its possible influence on the course of the disease and survival. Some authors have described decreased tolerance of chemotherapy associated with altered metabolism of antineoplastic drugs, increased infection rates, and poor clinical outcome in malnourished children. In this article, the authors review methods of nutritional assessment and the pathogenesis of nutritional morbidity in children with cancer as well as correlations of nutritional status with diagnosis, treatment, and outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developing Countries*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology
  • Malnutrition / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Nutritional Support*
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Analysis