Why Do Kids Get Cancer?   

Why Do Kids Get Cancer?

Why do kids get cancer?

September 01, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Burton Appel, M.D.
Stacey Rifkin Zenenberg, D.O.

Little is known about what causes cancer in children or what risk factors may increase a child’s chances of getting cancer, say pediatric hematologist/oncologists Stacey Rifkin-Zenenberg, D.O., and Burton Appel, M.D., who is also associate director of the Children’s Cancer Institute of Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.

There’s a low percentage of pediatric cancers that are associated with a family predisposition to cancer or with disorders that impact the immune system. “But for most children with cancer, there are no identifiable risk factors,” Dr. Appel says. “In terms of lifestyle risk factors, there’s very little we can tell parents to avoid or do differently.”

Importantly, Dr. Rifkin-Zenenberg says, children’s cancers are highly responsive to treatment, and the cure rates for childhood cancers are high. The NIH reports that childhood cancer deaths decreased by more than 50 percent between 1975 and 2010.

Signs to Watch

While there are a number of signs that could indicate cancer in kids, many of them could indicate another condition.

If your child is experiencing any of these issues, make an appointment with your child’s doctor:

  • Paleness or easy bruising
  • Unexplained persistent fever
  • Loss of energy or fatigue
  • Unusual swelling or lumps
  • Persistent headaches, with or without vomiting

According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute, while rates of cancer in children have slowly increased since the 1970s, cancer in children is still rare with only about 15,000 cases in the United States each year.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


Subscribe to get the latest health tips from our expert clinicians delivered weekly to your inbox.

Forming Your Cancer Care Team

Cancer patients may see several doctors and health care providers throughout the cancer treatment process. 

Pediatric Cancer: Searching for Answers

Back in September 2016, Olivia Vanderhoof was an energetic, outgoing 7-year-old excited to start 2nd grade in Hillsdale, New Jersey. That all changed when she began experiencing disturbing symptoms of a relentless fever, weakness and skin peeling.

Partners in Cancer Care

Typically, we photograph every individual appearing in HealthU. Because this story was planned during the surge of COVID-19, that contact would have been too risky.

What Are Cancer Vaccines?

Cancer vaccines come in two categories: Prophylactic or Preventative Vaccines

Tiny Fighter

Vanessa and Brian adore their 3-year-old daughter, Adeline, and take much pride and pleasure in watching her learn to speak.

Someone I Love Has Cancer, But What Can I Do?

When someone you love is impacted by a cancer diagnosis, it’s not uncommon to feel confused, uncomfortable, and/or unsure of how to proceed.

We use cookies to improve your experience. Please read our Privacy Policy or click Accept.