In Australia, more kids die from cancer than any other disease.

  • Cancer is the leading cause of death of Australian children, by disease.
  • More than 950 children aged between 0-18 are diagnosed each year.
  • Sadly, three children will die each week from cancer.
  • Cancer is a disease that occurs when abnormal cells in the body grow in an uncontrolled way. These abnormal cells damage or invade the surrounding tissues and often spread to other parts of the body, causing further damage.
  • Childhood cancer does not discriminate. Children from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds can develop the disease.
  • The treatments used such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, are extremely harsh and can cause serious health complications known as long-term effects. Children with cancer need to be monitored for the rest of their lives.

Childhood cancer is not the same as adult cancer.

  • Childhood cancer is different to adult cancer. It can look different under the microscope, occur in different parts of the body, and respond differently to treatment.
  • Researchers and doctors are yet to discover what causes childhood cancer, and there is no prevention.
  • Lifestyle choices and genetics are rarely attributed to the disease developing. 
  • Children develop different types of cancer to adults yet often receive the same treatments. That’s why new and specific child-friendly treatments are urgently needed.
  • Some cancers in children continue to have a very poor prognosis with only 50 per cent of children diagnosed with neuroblastoma and brain cancer expected to survive.



Every year,


Every week,


*Children aged 0 - 18 years.



Childhood cancer types

Here's a short list of some of the more common cancer types children can be diagnosed with.
Acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL)
Acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL) is the most common type of childhood cancer, defined by the overproduction of immature white blood cells (lymphoblast) that are therefore unable to fight infection by germs and other harmful bacteria. These cells can then spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is defined by the overproduction of early myeloid cells (cells that mature into red blood cells and platelets). These cells can ‘spill over’ into the blood and circulate around the body, increasing the risk of infection as well as causing anaemia and bruising because fewer healthy red blood cells and platelets are being made. Other types of myeloid leukaemias include: Juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia (JML), chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML), acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

Central nervous system (CNS) tumours

Central nervous system (CNS) tumours are cancers of the brain and spinal cord. They are the most common solid tumours in children and have the highest mortality rate of all childhood cancers. CNS tumours begin when normal cells in the brain or the spinal cord change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass.

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) 

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is a rare but aggressive brain tumour. DIPG are scattered tumours located in the pons, which is responsible for breathing, sleeping, bladder control and balance. It is one of the most resistant cancers to chemotherapies. DIPG primarily affects children diagnosed mostly between the ages of five and nine years old and accounts for 10 – 15 per cent of all childhood brain tumours.


Ependymomas are rare brain tumours that can grow in the brain or spinal cord. Ependymomas form from ependymal cells that line the ventricles and passage ways of the brain and spinal cord. The cause of Ependymoma is not known and it is the third most common brain tumour in children.

Ewing Sarcoma

Ewing Sarcoma is a cancerous tumour that mostly affects children 5 years or older. Ewing Sarcomas grow in the bones or in the tissue around bones, often found in legs, pelvis, ribs, arms and or spine. Ewing Sarcomas can spread to the lungs, bones and bone marrow.

Hepatoblastoma and Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Hepatoblastoma and Hepatocellular Carcinoma are the two main types of liver cancer found in children. Hepatoblastoma usually affects children under 3 years of age and does not generally spread outside the liver; Hepatocellular carcinoma typically affects older children and teenagers and can spread to other parts of the body.

Hodgkin lymphoma 

Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes or lymphatic system and it mostly affects teens. The abnormal lymphocyte cells form collections (tumours) in the lymph nodes or glands. Hodgkin lymphoma is distinguished from all other times of lymphoma because of the presence of a special kind of cancer cell called a Reed-Sternberg cell. 


Medulloblastoma is type of brain cancer that originates in the cerebellum. It is a fast-growing, high-grade tumour, which mostly affects children and accounts for around 18 per cent of all childhood brain tumours. Seventy per cent of all paediatric medulloblastomas are diagnosed in children less than ten years of age. 

Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system; this is the message network between your brain and other parts of the body. Neuroblastoma is the most common type of solid tumour in children under the age of five years, the average age of diagnosis is two years old. Neuroblastoma tumours can develop in the abdomen, neck or pelvis. 

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) 
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer of the immune system affecting T and B lymphocyte cells (the infection fighting white blood cells). These cells travel to the lymph glands, thymus gland, areas of the intestinal tract, tonsils and spleen where they form tumours. There are four major subtypes of NHL in children: lymphoblastic, Burkitt, large B cell and anaplastic large cell. 

Osteogenic Sarcoma or Osteosarcoma 
Osteogenic Sarcoma or Osteosarcoma is the most frequently diagnosed type of bone tumour accounting for three per cent of cancers in children. Osteosarcomas usually develop from osteoblasts (cells that make growing bone) around the knee, either in the distal femur (the lower part of the thigh bone) or the proximal tibia (the upper part of the shin bone). The proximal humerous (the part of the upper arm bone close to the shoulder) is the next most common site. 

Retinoblastoma is a cancer of the retinoblasts, cells that form the sensitive lining on the inside of your eye. Retinoblastoma is more common in infants from birth to three years old. About 40 per cent of these children have the congenital (genetic) form of the disease with every cell in the retina susceptible to tumour formation and both eyes are usually affected. The remaining 60 per cent have the sporadic (non-genetic) type affecting one eye. 


Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of sarcoma. Sarcomas are soft tissue (such as muscle) or connective tissue (such as tendon or cartilage) cancers. Rhabdomyosarcoma is most common in children under the age of ten.

There are three main types of Rhabdomyosarcoma: Embryonal –the most common type, developing in the head or neck or in the genital or urinary organs; Alveolar –most often occurring in teens and located in the arms or legs, chest, abdomen, genital organs or anal area; Anaplastic – this type rarely occurs in children. Read more.

Wilms tumour 
Wilms tumour account for about 90 per cent of kidney tumours in children. Wilms tumours often occur in children between three and four years of age. It becomes less common after five years of age. Wilms tumour can affect both kidneys but usually only develops in one. 

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