Incidence of childhood CNS tumours in Britain and variation in rates by definition of malignant behaviour: Population-based study

Charles Stiller*, Anita M. Bayne, Aruna Chakrabarty, Tom Kenny, Paul Chumas

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    47 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Intracranial and intraspinal tumours are the most numerous solid tumours in children. Some recently defined subtypes are relatively frequent in childhood. Many cancer registries routinely ascertain CNS tumours of all behaviours, while others only cover malignant neoplasms. Some behaviour codes have changed between revisions of the International Classification of Diseases for Oncology, including pilocytic astrocytoma, downgraded to uncertain behaviour in ICD-O-3. Methods: We used data from the population-based National Registry of Childhood Tumours, which routinely included non-malignant CNS tumours, to document the occurrence of CNS tumours among children aged < 15 years in Great Britain during 2001-2010 and to document the descriptive epidemiology of childhood CNS tumours over the 40-year period 1971-2010, during which several new entities were accommodated in successive editions of the WHO Classification and revisions of ICD-O. Eligible cases were all those with a diagnosis included in Groups III (CNS tumours) and Xa (CNS germ-cell tumours) of the International Classification of Childhood Cancer, Third Edition. The population at risk was derived from annual mid-year estimates by sex and single year of age compiled by the Office for National Statistics and its predecessors. Incidence rates were calculated for age groups 0, 1-4, 5-9 and 10-14 years, and age-standardised rates were calculated using the weights of the world standard population. Results: Age-standardised incidence in 2001-10 was 40.1 per million. Astrocytomas accounted for 41%, embryonal tumours for 17%, other gliomas for 10%, ependymomas for 7%, rarer subtypes for 20% and unspecified tumours for 5%. Incidence of tumours classified as malignant and non-malignant by ICD-O-3 increased by 30 and 137% respectively between 1971-75 and 2006-10. Conclusions: Total incidence was similar to that in other large western countries. Deficits of some, predominantly low-grade, tumours or differences in their age distribution compared with the United States and Nordic countries are compatible with delayed diagnosis. Complete registration regardless of tumour behaviour is essential for assessing burden of disease and changes over time. This is particularly important for pilocytic astrocytoma, because of its recent downgrading to non-malignant and time trends in the proportion of astrocytomas with specified subtype.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number139
    JournalBMC Cancer
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2019 The Author(s).


    • Behaviour codes
    • CNS tumours
    • Childhood
    • Incidence
    • Trends


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