Childhood cancer: overview of incidence trends and environmental carcinogens

Environ Health Perspect. 1995 Sep;103 Suppl 6(Suppl 6):177-84. doi: 10.1289/ehp.95103s6177.


An estimated 8000 children 0 to 14 years of age are diagnosed annually with cancer in the United States. Leukemia and brain tumors are the most common childhood malignancies, accounting for 30 and 20% of newly diagnosed cases, respectively. From 1975 to 1978 to 1987 to 1990, cancer among white children increased slightly from 12.8 to 14.1/100,000. Increases are suggested for leukemia, gliomas, and, to a much lesser extent, Wilms' tumor. There are a few well-established environmental causes of childhood cancer such as radiation, chemotherapeutic agents, and diethylstilbestrol. Many other agents such as electromagnetic fields, pesticides, and some parental occupational exposures are suspected of playing roles, but the evidence is not conclusive at this time. Some childhood exposures such as secondhand cigarette smoke may contribute to cancers that develop many years after childhood. For some exposures such as radiation and pesticides data suggest that children may be more susceptible to the carcinogenic effects than similarly exposed adults.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology*


  • Carcinogens
  • Environmental Pollutants