Rates of Children and Teens Getting Cancer by State or Region

Photo of a child in the hospital.

Many different types of cancer can occur in young people, including cancers that are often seen in adults as well as cancers that are unique to children.

The rate of pediatric cancer varies by U.S. Census region and state. In the current study, rates were highest in the Northeast Census region and lowest in the South Census region.

What Is Pediatric Cancer?

Pediatric cancer is cancer in a child or teen who is younger than 20 years of age. Many different types of cancer can occur in young people, including cancers that are often seen in adults as well as cancers that are unique to children. More than 15,000 cases of pediatric cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. The most common types are leukemia, lymphoma, and brain cancer.

How the Study Worked

CDC scientists wanted to know if children and teens in certain parts of the United States were more or less likely to get cancer than children and teens in other parts of the country. They used United States Cancer Statistics data to find out.

The scientists looked at the rates of getting cancer, called incidence rates, by the cancer patient’s—

  • Sex.
  • Age.
  • Race and ethnicity.
  • Area of the country (U.S. Census region).
  • State.
  • Cancer type.

The scientists also looked at incidence rates by—

  • The economic status of the county where the patient lived (looking at employment, income, and poverty of each county).
  • Whether the cancer patient lived in a city.

What the Study Found

  • Young people in the Northeast Census region had the highest rate of getting cancer; the rate of cancer in young people was lowest in the South Census region.
  • Young people who lived in more prosperous counties, and young people who lived in a city, had higher rates of cancer than young people who lived in poorer counties or outside of a city.
  • Young people in the West Census region had the highest rate of leukemia.
  • Young people in the Northeast Census region had the highest rates of lymphoma and brain tumors.

The full report discusses other findings in more detail.

Note: Rates are per 1 million people and are age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population. See full report for specific rates for each state.

What This Means

Although the causes of most pediatric cancers remain unknown, understanding where child and teen cancer rates are highest can help doctors, researchers, and health departments make sure children and teens with cancer get the care they need, both during and after treatment.

Knowing how many children and teens are likely to get cancer each year, and what kinds of cancer they get most often, can help doctors design clinical trials. Health care providers can reach out to young people with cancer to invite them to join clinical trials, and help them get the best treatment possible.

More than 4 out of every 5 children and teens with cancer survive their cancer. Childhood cancer survivors may need follow-up care for the rest of their lives to help them avoid common long-term side effects of cancer treatment, such as heart disease, an inability to have children, or getting another cancer.

Citation

Siegel DA, Li J, Henley SJ, Wilson RJ, Lunsford Buchanan N, Tai E, Van Dyne EA. Geographic variation in pediatric cancer incidence—United States, 2003–2014. MMWR 2018;67(25):707–713.

More Information

  • There are many things to consider when comparing cancer rates between states. For example, the study used confidence intervals to help compare states that might have similar rates. Also, this study compared rates by race/ethnicity groups, but did not adjust the total rates by race/ethnicity. For more information about these and other factors, please see Guidance for Comparing States’ Cancer Data. For more information and considerations when using confidence intervals, please see the United States Cancer Statistics technical notes page on this topic.
  • CDC is working to better understand pediatric cancer and report it faster to doctors, researchers, and health departments. For more information, see Pediatric and Young Adult Early Case Capture.
  • Related research: Tai E., Hallisey E, Peipins LA, Flanagan B, Buchanan Lunsford N, Wilt G, Graham S. Geographic access to cancer care and mortality among adolescents.External Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology 2017;7(1):22–29.
Page last reviewed: October 1, 2018