Thankfully, cancer in teenagers and young adults is rare, accounting for less than 1% of cancers in all ages.

However, the impact of cancer can be devastating and cancer is the most common cause of death from disease in young people.

Facts about cancer in teenagers and young adults

  • In the UK, around 2,500 young people aged 13-24 years are diagnosed with cancer each year. That's seven young people who are diagnosed every day.
  • Around 310 teenagers and young adults die from cancer each year in the UK.
  • Cancer is the leading cause of death from disease in teenagers and young adults in the UK, accounting for 9% of deaths in all males and 15% of all deaths in females aged 15-24.
  • Survival is significantly lower in teenagers and young adults than in children for several cancer types, including bone tumours and soft tissue sarcomas, lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Factors relating to diagnosis, different treatment protocols and low levels of participation in clinical trials may explain some of the differences.
  • Only 30% of teenagers aged 15-19 and 14% of young people aged 20-24 gain access to clinical trials for common cancer types, compared to 50-70% of children.
  • Survival for teenage and young adult cancer is improving. More than 80% of teenagers and young adults diagnosed with cancer in the UK survive for at least five years. The death rate from cancer in this age group in the UK has halved since the mid-1970s

Most common cancers in teenagers and young adults in the UK

The five most commonly diagnosed cancers in females aged 15-25 years are:

  • Carcinomas
  • Lymphomas
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Brain tumours
  • Leukaemia

The five most commonly diagnosed cancers in males aged 15-25 years are:

  • Germ cell tumours
  • Lymphomas
  • Brain tumours
  • Leukaemia
  • Carcinomas

Source: Cancer Research UK, Cancer incidence by age 2009-2011