Increase in incidence of Childhood and Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer


There has been an increase in the  incidence of Childhood and Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer (AYA) between 1996 and 2020 and ongoing significant reductions in mortality, reflecting advances in early detection, treatment, and care, according to the first report of its kind to include cancers in those up to 24 years of age.

The most commonly diagnosed cancers in 0-15 year olds were brain and CNS tumours, leukaemias, and lymphomas, while epithelial tumours and melanomas, lymphomas, and brain and CNS tumours were the most commonly diagnosed cancers in 16-24 year olds.

An average of 369 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 0-24 year olds per year during 2011-2020 (191 at ages 0-15, 178 at ages 16-24).

While incidence rates are low, they have increased by 1.3% per year in 0-15 year olds, and 1.1% per year in 16–24 year olds, since 1996. However, there has been a notable fall in the rate of melanoma observed in 16-24 year old females.

Five-year survival has increased from 82% (2002-2010 cases) to 87% (2011-2019) in 0-15 year olds and from 87% to 90% in 16-24 year olds, and ongoing increases in survival are reflected in long-term reductions in mortality.

Of the 8974 children and AYA diagnosed with cancer between 1994 and 2020, 7354 (82%) were still alive at the end of 2020.

“Although rare, childhood, adolescent and young adult cancers are particularly important as they are not easily prevented, their impact on individuals and their families can endure well after the initial diagnosis and treatment, and their causes are, in the main, unknown.  Monitoring trends in these cancers is essential for health service planning as well as for research into causation.  Our report aims to profile these cancers and provide useful insights for policy makers, planners, and the public into progress on control of these cancers in Ireland to date,”  said Professor Deirdre Murray, Director of the National Cancer Registry.