CDC Analysis of Pediatric Cancer Data Finds Regional, Racial Disparities in U.S. Incidence Rates
The incidence of pediatric cancer is highest in the Northeast compared with other U.S. regions, according to a federal study published Monday in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. For the study, researchers at CDC analyzed medical data -- obtained from state and medical registries -- from 2001 to 2003 that represented 90% of the U.S. population. The study identified 36,446 cases of pediatric cancer. The study found pediatric cancer affects nearly 166 of every one million U.S. children. According to the Inquirer, the rate illustrates "just how rare childhood cancers are." The Northeast region had the highest rate, with 179 cases per million children, while the Southern region had the lowest rate, with 159 cases per million.
Meanwhile, the Midwest had 166 cases per million children, and the West had 165 cases per million children. The study also found that the incidence in boys was 174 cases per million, compared with 157 cases per million for girls. White children had the highest rate, at 173 cases per million, followed by Hispanic children at 164 cases per million and black children at 118 cases per million.
According to the Inquirer, experts said the regional differences, "though small, are intriguing, but that reasons for them are uncertain." Some experts suggest the higher rate in the Northeast could be attributed to better access to care, which could lead to more diagnoses. According to Lindsay Frazier, a cancer specialist at Children's Hospital Boston, better access to cancer centers also could explain the lower death rates from pediatric cancer in the Northeast found in other studies.
Jun Li, the study's lead author, said that environmental conditions -- including exposure to radiation from X-rays, nuclear plant emissions and natural sources -- could result in rate disparities. However, Li said further research is necessary to determine if the theoretical reasons vary enough by region to have a significant effect on pediatric cancer rates (Tanner, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/2).
An abstract of the study is available online.