cancer in youngCancer deaths in children and young people have fallen by 58 per cent in the past 40 years, according to new figures announced by Cancer Research UK today.

Progress in treating the disease has led to this unprecedented drop among youngsters aged 24 and under, with around 1,300 deaths each year in the mid-1970s dropping to around 550 deaths today.

The steepest decline was in leukaemia, where the average number of deaths dropped by 39 per cent in the past 10 years, falling from around 180 deaths each year to around 110.

Despite this, cancer remains the biggest killer of children and young people in the UK, with around 550 young lives lost to the disease every year, many from brain tumours.

Professor Pam Kearns, director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit in Birmingham, said: “These figures are testament to the real progress we’re making in treating children and young people with cancer. Cancer Research UK has been instrumental in this progress. But hundreds of young people are dying from cancer each year in the UK, which means there’s still much more we need to do.”

Despite improvements in survival, cancer has a huge impact on youngsters. Children can face months of painful treatment, as well as the upset of being away from home and friends and unfortunately some face living with long-term side-effects from their treatment, such as infertility, and disability, which have an impact throughout their adult lives.

Professor Kearns added: “Every day, I see the extreme bravery of children and young people going through difficult treatments. Whilst many go on to live full lives, they may have to deal with the side-effects of treatment for years to come. So it is vital that we continue to increase funding for research into kinder and better treatments that will offer new hope to children and their families.”