Understanding the Impact of Childhood Cancer Rates across Sub-Saharan Africa
Collated Childhood cancer statistics in sub Saharan Africa have been published for the first time as a monograph in the peer reviewed journal ecancermedicalscience, allowing researchers and policymakers a critical new insight into the impact of paediatric cancer across this region.
On the African continent, only South Africa operates a childhood cancer registry on the national level.
This new study brings together data from 16 of the smaller localised registers, which, as members of the African Cancer Registry Network (AFCRN), have been evaluated as achieving adequate coverage of their target population. The study has allowed for the collection of this scattered knowledge for the first time and presents it in an accessible format.
The cancers are classified according to the third revision of the International Classification of Childhood Cancer (ICCC-3) and recorded rates in Africa are compared with those in childhood populations in the UK, France, and the USA.
Examining the data in context allows researchers to notice important trends, such as in Blantyre, Malawi’s second-largest city:
In Blantyre, the cumulative risk of a child developing Burkitt’s Lymphoma — a rare blood cancer — is a startling two in every thousand.
The study’s authors call this incidence “remarkable.” And the global research community is largely unaware of this.
“Everything starts with awareness,” says lead author Prof Cristina Stefan, Global Clinical Leader of Oncology for Roche Diagnostics International Ltd of Switzerland, and Director of the African Medical Research and Innovation Institute (AMRII).
“It is highly necessary to publicise these data, which at the moment represent the best image of the malignant disease in children in the respective regions.” Other factors, such as the prevalence of malaria and the Epstein-Barr virus, contribute to the unique epidemiology of childhood cancer in Africa.
Prof Stefan says: “Our colleagues can learn that the patterns and distribution of cancers in Africa are totally different from Europe and there is a need for further research into the roles of factors such as genetic predispositions, and the influence of infections and other comorbidities in the evolution of cancer.
“We have learned many universal lessons about data collection as we prepared this work. Our hope is that the publication of this monograph will open the forums for future discussions and that the work will be referenced for the better understanding of cancer in children in Africa and used to improve outcomes for children affected there.”
According to the study:
It is clear that, in many centres, lack of adequate diagnostic and treatment facilities leads to under-diagnosis (and enumeration) of leukaemias and brain cancers. However, for several childhood cancers, incidence rates in Africa are higher than those in high-income countries. This applies to infection-related cancers such as Kaposi sarcoma, Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and hepatocellular carcinoma, and also to two common embryonal cancers – retinoblastoma and nephroblastoma. These (and other) observations are unlikely to be artefact, and are of considerable interest when considering possible aetiological factors, including ethnic differences in risk (and hence genetic/familial antecedents).
The data reported are the most extensive so far available on the incidence of cancer in sub Saharan Africa, and clearly indicate the need for more resources to be devoted to cancer registration, especially in the childhood age range, as part of an overall programme to improve the availability of diagnosis and treatment of this group of cancers, many of which have—potentially—an excellent prognosis.
In the meantime, the study has been published in an open access journal so that the data is freely available to help public health policy makers and health agencies better plan allocation of existing medical resources to help prevent deaths which would be avoidable in higher income countries.
The paper has been authored by: Cristina Stefan, Freddie Bray, Jacques Ferlay, D Maxwell Parkin and Biying Liu.
Citation information and links
Monograph: Stefan C, Bray F, Ferlay J, Parkin DM and Liu B (2017) Cancer of childhood in sub-Saharan Africa
Editorial: Parkin DM and Stefan C (2017) Editorial: Childhood Cancer in sub-Saharan Africa ecancer
Posted on 1 August, 2017, in Articles, Blog, Research and tagged cancer, childhood, childhood cancer, Childhood Cancer Awareness, Children with Cancer, Fighting Cancer, Little Fighters Cancer Trust, paediatric cancer, Pediatric cancer, pediatric cancer awareness, sub-Saharan Africa. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.