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Thursday, 30 November, 2000, 10:06 GMT
Child cancer survival doubles
Chemotherapy treatment
New treatments are helping save the lives of thouands
The number of children surviving cancer has doubled over the last 30 years, according to new figures from the Cancer Research Campaign.

Launching its Children's Cancer Awareness Month on Thursday, it said seven out of 10 survive the disease now, compared to three in 10 in the 1960s.

The CRC also announced the biggest ever survey into the long-term effects of cancer treatment, aiming to interview 16,000 survivors of childhood cancer.

Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the CRC, which is aiming to raise 1 million to tackle childhood cancers, said: "This is fantastic news, which is all thanks to advances in research and better treatment."

Survivor

Hannah Tonkin, aged six, represents the one in seven children who survive. She is the CRC's patron of the month.


Hannah said: "When I was a little baby I got ill in my eye. The doctor told mummy that it was cancer. Mummy says that I'm a very lucky and special girl. She likes to think I'm that lucky number seven."

Professor McVie added: "The use of combination chemotherapy, taken up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, for example, has dramatically improved cure rates and quality of life."

"Although survival rates are improving, cancer is still the biggest killer of children in the UK after violence and accidents, so it is important that we keep children's cancer in the spotlight."

He said co-ordinated treatment programmes and the sharing of best practice had also helped to increase survival rates."

Study

The CRC study will follow up every survivor of childhood cancer between 1940 and 1999, and will monitor the risk of premature menopause in childhood cancer survivors, the health of their children, and achievements in education and employment.

It will be carried out by the UK Children's Cancer Study Group - a group of doctors treating children with cancer.

Survival rates
Overall
1960s - under 30%
1990s - over 60%
Leukaemia - five years
1960s - under 5%
1990s - over 80%
Non-Hodgkins lymphoma - five years
17% - 1960s
77% - 1990s

Dr Mike Hawkins, based at the University of Birmingham, who is leading the study, said: "It is vitally important for us to monitor childhood cancer survivors through time so we can know the long-term effects of specific treatments.

"Doctors know some treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which kill off cancer in the short-term may cause side effects in some long-term survivors."

"Although we suspect these problems affect only a small number of survivors overall, it is possible that particular types of treatment may give rise to especially excessive risks."

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