According to an analysis published in The Lancelot Oncology, each year, estimates suggest that nearly 400,000 new cases of childhood cancer occur, but current data represent just over 220,000. Children in low- and middle-income countries have a disproportionate burden.
The researchers analyzed childhood cancer registries in 200 countries and combined their findings with data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. They found that more than half of childhood cancer cases in Africa, South-Central Asia and the Pacific Islands are undiagnosed. By comparison, only 3% of childhood cancer incidents are undiagnosed in North America and Europe.
"Our model suggests that nearly one out of every two children with cancer will never be diagnosed and could die without treatment," said study author Zachary Ward in a statement. a statement. "Accurate estimates of children's cancer incidence are essential for policy makers to help them prioritize health care and plan effective diagnosis and treatment of all children with cancer." This underdiagnosis has been recognized as a problem, but this model provides specific estimates that have been missing. "
Cancer is the leading cause of death in children, according to the WHO. In high-income countries, more than 80% of children with cancer are cured, but that number drops to just 20% in low- and middle-income countries. Although the number of childhood cancers worldwide generally decreases, the authors note that about 92% of new cases would likely occur in low- and middle-income countries. By the year 2030, an estimated 6.7 million new cases of childhood cancer, of which 2.9 million will be missed if the performance of health systems does not improve.
"Health systems in low- and middle-income countries are clearly not meeting the needs of children with cancer Universal health coverage, a goal of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, must include childhood cancer as a priority for prevent unnecessary deaths, "said senior author Rifat Atun. The authors noted that strengthened health systems around the world would bring effective health facilities to "diagnose, guide and treat in a timely manner" and expand cancer registration in countries that lack them.
The authors note that their study is limited by available cancer registry data and that forecasts in Africa may be influenced by country representation. In addition, the study assumes that all diagnosed cases are correctly recorded, which is not always the case.