Background: Improvements in diagnostic approaches and refinements to treatment protocols have resulted in 5-year survival levels above 70% for children diagnosed with cancer in economically developed parts of the world. For some cancers, including leukaemia and tumours of the central nervous system, age and sex have been identified as important prognostic indicators.
Methods: We examined long-term survival, and affects of age and sex, in a population-based case-control study. Children (0-14 years) newly diagnosed with cancer were ascertained between 1991 and 1996 (n=4433). Follow-up information was obtained from the National Health Service (NHS) Information Centre for Health and Social Care which records all exits from the NHS including deaths.
Results: For all cancer diagnoses combined, 5-year survival was 72.7% dropping to 67.9% at 15 years. As expected, survival differed between diagnostic subtypes ranging from 38.1% for intracranial embryonal tumours to 96.2% for Hodgkin lymphoma. Compared to girls, boys diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia were at a higher risk of dying (RR=1.26, 95% CI 1.03-1.53), whereas boys diagnosed with an intracranial embryonal tumour were at a lower risk of death (RR=0.63, 95% CI 0.43-0.91).
Conclusion: Our initial findings are consistent with previous reports, and highlight the importance of considering differences by age and sex. The completeness and population-based nature of the original case-control study is an important feature which will provide the basis for future more detailed investigations linking disease determinants to outcome.
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