What Is the Childhood Leukemia Survival Rate Per Age Group?

Leukemia refers to a group of blood cancers that affect your bone marrow, as well as your red and white blood cells. It is considered the most common cancer in children. In fact, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says that about 1 in 3 cases of childhood cancer is leukemia.

However, chronic forms of childhood leukemia are considered rare.

Acute lymphoblastic/lymphatic leukemia (ALL) is the most common form in children, according to the ACS. It has a high cure rate. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is another — though less common — subtype of childhood leukemia.

As with any cancer, early diagnosis and prompt treatment of childhood leukemia is crucial to prevent its spread. Learn about survival rates for this type of cancer, as well as risk factors to consider.

While leukemia remains the second leading cause of cancer-related death in children, advances in treatment have increased overall survival.

In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the overall childhood cancer death rate fell by 50 percent between 1975 and 2010.

When considering outlook, researchers refer to what’s known as a 5-year survival rate. This refers to an average percentage of people who are still alive 5 years after the initial diagnosis.

Keep in mind that a 5-year survival rate is not an exact predictor of a child’s cancer journey.

Babies and Toddlers

Leukemia is considered rare in infants; a clinical review estimated an incidence of about 160 US cases per year. The average 5-year survival rate for infants with AML is 60 to 70 percent, according to the NCI. The rates go up slightly for children over 1 year old, as discussed in the next section.

Despite its rarity, however, childhood leukemia is more aggressive and requires intensive treatment. Infants can go into remission, but cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can lead to long-term adverse effects.


According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), the average 5-year survival rate for ALL, the most common form of childhood leukemia, is 94.4 percent for children under age 5. There is a slight decrease to 92.5 percent for older children under the age of 5. age 15.

AML is a less common childhood leukemia. It also has a lower 5-year survival rate of 70.6 percent for all children under 15 years of age.


The survival rate for ALL in older children has also improved in recent decades. According to the NCI, adolescents ages 15 to 19 have an average 5-year survival rate of at least 75 percent. The survival rate for AML in the same age group is 57 percent.

While childhood leukemia is not necessarily preventable, there are a few known risk factors that you may want to discuss with your doctor. Imagine the following situation:


There is a childhood peak in ALL cases between the ages of 2 and 3. The NCI reports an incidence of at least 90 cases per 1 million per year, with such cases being fourfold compared to infants and children over 10 years of age. At the same time, ALL percentages drop significantly around age 8.

Prenatal X-ray Exposure

One reason ultrasound is used instead of X-rays during pregnancy is to reduce an unborn baby’s exposure to radiation. Prenatal exposure to X-rays is another possible risk factor for ALL in children, especially during the first few months of fetal development.

In some cases, an X-ray may be medically necessary. Talk to your doctor about all your imaging options, especially if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Exposure to high doses of radiation

Postnatal radiation exposure can also increase your child’s risk of ALL and AML. Such high doses of radiation are often therapeutic in nature and can be used for thymus enlargement, tinea capitis and other conditions.

genetic disorders

Certain genetic conditions are also associated with both ALL and AML in children. According to the NCI, these may include:

family history

While there doesn’t seem to be a link between either parents or children who have ALL, having a sibling with this cancer can increase your risk.

With AML, there seems to be a higher risk in children who have a sibling or a parent with a history of this type of leukemia.

The risk in siblings may be higher in twins for all childhood leukemias, at 20 percent, according to the ACS. The risk may be higher if the cancer develops during the first year of life.

Certain blood disorders

According to the ACS, the following blood conditions can increase your risk of developing AML:

essential thrombocythemia idiopathic myelofibrosis myelodysplastic syndrome polycythemia vera

Factors that can affect the survival rates of childhood leukemia include:

subtype, with ALL having a better prognosis than AMLinitial white blood cell reports – counts over 50,000 are signs of a higher risk case at the time of diagnosis, with ages 1 to 9 having a higher cure rateTreatment response changes in chromosomes, which are genetic structures made of DNA and proteins

For everyone

The estimated 5-year survival for different age groups does not take into account the possibility of relapse. However, the NCI estimates that 98 percent of children with ALL achieve cancer remission.

In addition, the ACS reports that children who go into remission after 1 to 2 weeks of chemotherapy for ALL generally have better outcomes.

for AML

According to the NCI, between 50 and 60 percent of children with recurrent AML will relapse within the first year, with most relapsing 4 years after diagnosis.

It is important to discuss your child’s individual case with their cancer specialist (also known as an oncologist), including the potential risks of treatment toxicity.

While the outlook for childhood leukemia is much more promising than in years past, it’s important to find support as a caregiver to help you navigate the process. This can be in the form of:

Overall, the survival rate for childhood leukemia has increased significantly in recent decades. This is attributed to both early detection and advanced treatments aimed at reducing long-term toxicity.

It is important to talk to your child’s oncologist about their individual situation. You can also discuss prognostic risk factors, such as age and genetic conditions, as well as the chances of remission and relapse.

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