Childhood cancer incidence: a comparison with cystic fibrosis

In the UK, cystic fibrosis is a rare but very serious condition that hugely affects the quality of life and life expectancy of individuals. It is however a condition that we as General practitioners are aware of and probably at the very least had a series of medical school lectures on, and know what to look for.

So how does cystic compare in terms of incidence with childhood cancer?​

  • The incidence of cancer in children and young people is ten times more common than that of cystic fibrosis and results in 3.7 times as many deaths a year in the UK.

  • Long term survival rates of childhood cancer survivors (5 years in remission) is significantly better than those of individuals with cystic fibrosis. However, remember that the 5 year survival of childhood cancer is only 82% (survival in young people is 84%).​

Take home message:

Cancer in children and young people is not as rare as we think. So much more needs to be done on awareness and education into the signs and symptoms. With 1 in 285 children and young people affected before their 20th birthday (American cancer Society, 2014), it is something that we, as clinicians need to be aware of in general practice.