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Death Within 1 Month of Diagnosis in Childhood Cancer: An Analysis of Risk Factors and Scope of the Problem

Journal title
Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology
Publication year
Green, A. L.; Furutani, E.; Ribeiro, K. B.; Rodriguez Galindo, C.

Purpose Despite advances in childhood cancer care, some patients die soon after diagnosis. This population is not well described and may be under-reported. Better understanding of risk factors for early death and scope of the problem could lead to prevention of these occurrences and thus better survival rates in childhood cancer. Methods We retrieved data from SEER 13 registries on 36,337 patients age 0 to 19 years diagnosed with cancer between 1992 and 2011. Early death was defined as death within 1 month of diagnosis. Socioeconomic status data for each individual’s county of residence were derived from Census 2000. Crude and adjusted odds ratios and corresponding 95% CIs were estimated for the association between early death and demographic, clinical, and socioeconomic factors. Results Percentage of early death in the period was 1.5% (n = 555). Children with acute myeloid leukemia, infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia, hepatoblastoma, and malignant brain tumors had the highest risk of early death. On multivariable analysis, an age younger than 1 year was a strong predictor of early death in all disease groups examined. Black race and Hispanic ethnicity were both risk factors for early death in multiple disease groups. Residence in counties with lower than median average income was associated with a higher risk of early death in hematologic malignancies. Percentages of early death decreased significantly over time, especially in hematologic malignancies. Conclusion Risk factors for early death in childhood cancer include an age younger than 1 year, specific diagnoses, minority race and ethnicity, and disadvantaged socioeconomic status. The population-based disease-specific percentages of early death were uniformly higher than those reported in cooperative clinical trials, suggesting that early death is under-reported in the medical literature. Initiatives to identify those at risk and develop preventive interventions should be prioritized.

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