The increasing toll of adolescent cancer incidence in the US

PLoS One. 2017 Feb 24;12(2):e0172986. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172986. eCollection 2017.


Cancer incidence is rising among adolescents ("teens"). The causes of the increase are unknown but studying incidence patterns and trends may produce insights into etiology. Using data from the US National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program we described trends of cancer incidence among teens (15-19 year olds). We reviewed and summarized incidence patterns for histologic cancer groups and the most frequently diagnosed sites of cancer among teens during 2008-2012 reported by the SEER Cancer Statistics Review. We calculated annual incidence rates for the years 1975-2012 and used linear regression analysis to evaluate trends and calculate rates of change. Incidence for all sites combined increased annually by 0.67% for males and 0.62% for females during the period 1975 through 2012 -resulting in more than a 25% increase over 38 years. The biggest annual incidence increases occurred in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) (2.16% females; 1.38% males), thyroid cancer (2.12% females; 1.59% males), acute myeloid leukemia (AML) (1.73% females) and testicular cancer (1.55% males). Incidence rates for most histologic groups and sites showed steady long term increases over the 38 years of data. Despite improvements in survival, rising incidence trends mean growing numbers of young adults are undergoing painful and costly cancer treatments. A concerted research program is vital to investigate causes of steadily rising teen cancer rates.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • SEER Program
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.