Brain Tumour Awareness Month: 1 in 3 children who die of cancer are killed by brain tumours

  • One in three children who die of cancer are killed by a brain tumour
  • One in four cancer deaths among the under 25s are caused by brain tumours
  • Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of the under 40s
  • One in ten people who die of cancer under the age of 50 are killed by a brain tumour

Figures released today by the charity Brain Tumour Research reveal the shocking number of young lives being lost to brain tumours.

As Brain Tumour Awareness Month gets underway, the charity is publishing the statistics which show one in three children who die of cancer are losing their lives to a brain tumour. The disease is also responsible for one in four deaths of the under 25s, one in six of those under 40 and one in ten of those under 50.

Brain Tumour Research’s statistics, which relate to deaths in England and Wales, are based on information originated by the Office for National Statistics.

The charity’s Chief Executive Sue Farrington Smith MBE said: “When my sister’s little girl, Alison Phelan, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in August 2000, we were shocked and horrified to learn that there was no cure. We lost her just 10 months later, three weeks before her eighth birthday.

“Twenty years on there is still a paucity of treatments for brain tumour patients and to think we continue to lose so many young people to this dreadful disease is deeply shocking.

Less than 20% of patients survive beyond five years of their diagnosis whereas for cancers such as breast and leukaemia the figures are 86% and 51% respectively because of greater investment for research in those areas.

“Unlike many other cancers, brain tumours are indiscriminate. They can affect anyone at any time, regardless of age, gender, race or lifestyle. Too little is known about the causes and that is why increased investment in research is vital if we are to improve outcomes for patients and, ultimately, find a cure.”

The charity says that despite the fact brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to the devastating disease. It is campaigning for an increase in the national investment in research into brain tumours to £35 million per year. It is also fundraising to create a sustainable network of brain tumour research centres in the UK.

Figures released last month by the National Cancer Research Institute show that, in the period from 2002/2003 (when records began) to 2018/2019, just under £100 million has been spent on research into brain tumours. This is three times less than that spent on prostate cancer (£300 million), five times less than is spent on leukaemia (£500 million) and seven times less than has been invested in breast cancer (£679 million).

The mortality rate statistics originated by the Office for National Statistics apply to England and Wales and show that:

  • Brain tumours kill more children (those aged under 15) and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, representing one in six of all under 40s cancer deaths.
  • 1 in 10 cancer deaths under the age of 50 are attributable to brain tumours.
  • For males it is one in seven. In 2018, 358 (i.e. nearly one for every day of the year) males under the age of 50 died from a brain tumour. Only 12 males under the age of 50 died from prostate cancer.
  • For females it is one in 13. In 2018, 250 females (i.e. five a week) under the age of 50 died from a brain tumour. By way of comparison 937 females under the age of 50 died from breast cancer.
  • One in four cancer deaths under the age of 25 are attributable to brain tumours. In 2018, 126 under 25s died of a brain tumour (i.e. over ten a month). For leukaemia, this figure is 110.
  • One in three cancer deaths for children (those aged under 15) are attributable to brain tumours. In 2018, 80 children died of a brain tumour. For leukaemia, this figure is 48.

A minute’s silence is taking place at 11am today at Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence in remembrance of all of those killed by the disease. Brain Tumour Awareness Month culminates in Wear A Hat Day on Friday 27 March.  Now in its 11th year, Wear A Hat Day has raised more than £1.25 million to help fund the fight against the disease.

Case studies – children

Eight-year-old Kyle Morrison, from Hertfordshire, was diagnosed with the least survivable of all childhood brain tumours six months ago. His devastated mum Vicki was given the nightmare news that he had a year to live. Now, half way through that “death sentence” she is desperately trying to raise the money needed for a clinical trial which she believes is their only hope.

Key statistics on brain tumours: