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Epidemiology of central nervous system tumors in children

Ching Lau, MD, PhD
Section Editor
David G Poplack, MD
Deputy Editor
Carrie Armsby, MD, MPH


Central nervous system (CNS) tumors include both non-malignant and malignant tumors of the brain and spinal cord. Primary malignant CNS tumors are the second most common childhood malignancies, after hematological malignancies, and are the most common pediatric solid organ tumor (table 1) [1]. Although progress has been made in the treatment of childhood tumors, significant mortality and morbidity are still associated with malignant brain tumors.

The epidemiology of CNS tumors in children will be reviewed here. The clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and overview of the management of CNS tumors and outcome in children are discussed separately. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of central nervous system tumors in children" and "Overview of the management of central nervous system tumors in children".)


In the United States (US), based upon data from the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the US (CBTRUS), the estimated incidence of primary non-malignant and malignant CNS tumors is 5.4 cases per 100,000 person-years for children and adolescents ≤19 years of age [2]. The estimated five-year survival rate for all primary CNS tumors is about 66 percent in patients ≤19 years of age, resulting in about 26,000 children living in the United States with a CNS tumor.

In the US, CNS tumors are the most common solid tumors in children (table 1) and are the leading cause of cancer death in children 0 through 14 years [1,3]. In the CBTRUS report, CNS tumors accounted for 29 percent of all malignancies in children <15 years of age [3].

In Germany, the incidence of childhood CNS tumors is lower, with a reported rate of 2.6 per 100,000 children <15 years based on epidemiologic data from 1990 to 1999 [4].


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Dec 7, 2015.
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