Every year 42 new cases of cancer in children are recorded in Cyprus, a stable but worrying trend, although survival rates remained very high, a paediatrician and oncologist said on Tuesday.

Dr Loizos Loizou, chairman of the ‘Elpida Foundation For Children With Cancer’ was speaking at a news conference where he presented data about cancer incidence rates as well as the latest available treatments.

Opening up his presentation, he said that every three minutes one child dies of cancer around the world. In Cyprus, 42 new cases of cancer in children occur each year.

Globally, cancer is the biggest killer of minors than all other potentially lethal diseases for children, combined, he said.

Wealthy countries account for 20 per cent of global cancer cases in children, with the cure rate coming to 80 per cent. Less developed countries account for the rest of cases, with the cure rate fluctuating between 15 and 20 per cent.

The 42 children’s cancers recorded annually in Cyprus make up 1.5 per cent of all cases among the population. It occurs somewhat more frequently in boys.

However, stressed Loizou, the impact is a significant one – for example, the incidence rate among the 15-19 age group comes to 296 per million – making it the third highest incidence globally. Only Italy and Belgium record higher incidence rates for that age group.

In Cyprus, the distribution of cancers by type differs to other countries, something that is the subject of ongoing research. Acute leukemia is the most common form here.

“We have a higher rate of lymphomas. As for thyroid cancer, we may have the most [per capita] in the entire world, or at least we’re in the top two countries.”

The most common forms of cancer among children here are: acute leukemia (26.5 per cent of cases), lymphoma (21.5 per cent), thyroid cancer (14 per cent), and brain tumours (11 per cent).

Whereas the incidence rate in Cyprus is high, it has also been stable throughout the years, said Dr Loizou.

“We only have a real upward trend in thyroid cancer, especially in kids and teenagers – mostly girls – in the 15-19 age group. The increase is of the order of 7.6 per cent annually.

“This is highly significant and concerning, because it is the metastatic cases that are on the rise. For metastatic cases, our research shows they have quadrupled over a period of 10 years.”

Thankfully, Loizou added, these specific cases have an excellent cure rate – 100 per cent. “But we should not get complacent.”

On cancer survival rates, the doctor said that four in five children in Cyprus survive. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia has a survival rate of 86 per cent, lymphomas 95 per cent, thyroid cancer and retinoblastoma 100 per cent, neuroblastoma 60 per cent, and brain tumours 50 per cent.

Regarding the zero to 19 age group, research has shown no significant difference in the incidence rate by type of area – urban or rural.

Therefore, researchers should look elsewhere for the cause, as it’s not a matter of geographical distribution.

On the progress achieved in treating children and teens, Loizou called it one of the most important success stories in medicine in general.