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Washington StateThe Collaborative on Health and the Environment – Washington

A Partnership Network for Environmental Health
Established and Coordinated by the Institute for Children's Environmental Health

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Childhood Cancer

This section of the clearinghouse contains information on childhood cancer (0-19 years).

The most common forms of childhood cancer are brain cancer and leukemia, and there is ”strong” scientific evidence that both of these types of cancer are associated with environmental contaminants, according the Collaborative on Health and Environment’s Toxicant and Disease Database.

Proportion of Childhood Cancer Attributable to Environmental Contaminants

Landrigan et al. convened a panel of experts to estimate the proportion of childhood cancer attributable to environmental contaminants. Based on the available scientific evidence, the panel concluded that at least 5-10%, and less than 80-90%, of childhood cancers can be attributed to environmental pollutants.

This is consistent with the recent World Health report on "Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments: Towards an Estimate of the Environmental Burden of Disease 2006" estimated that 16% of cancers in men and 13% in women are due to the environment in the developed world, excluding lung cancer. These estimates do not include lifestyle factors.

Summary of Information on Washington State

From National Organizations:

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) State Cancer Profiles offers incidence and mortality data for Washington State, either by specific cancer types for adults or by cancer rates for children under the age of 19 as a whole, not broken down by cancer type. For children, the NCI's profile does not have incidence rates for the State or the nation as whole, but does have annual death rates (per 100,000 population). For Washington State this was 3.1 in 2003.

From State Organizations:

Data from the Washington State Department of Health’s Cancer Registry show that 302 children aged 0-19 years were diagnosed with cancer in 2002. Of these children, 113 were diagnosed with brain cancer or leukemia, and 189 were diagnosed with other types of cancer. The table below shows the number of children, broken down by age group, that were diagnosed with brain cancer or leukemia in Washington State in 2002:

Age Group

Brain Cancer


0-4 years



5-9 years



10-14 years



15-19 years






From Local Organizations:

We did not find any information on childhood cancer from local organizations.

Fom Academic Institutions:

In 2001, Mueller et al. published an article on the "Residential Water Source and the Risk of Childhood Brain Tumors". In this study, Mueller et al. focused on three regions in the US, including the Seattle-Puget Sound Area. An increased risk of childhood brain tumors were observed in western Washington among offspring of women who relied exclusively on well water.

Another study looked at "Childhood Brain Tumor Occurrence In Relation to Residential Power Line Configurations, Electric Heating Sources, and Electric Appliance Use". The findings do not support the hypothesis that exposure to magnetic fields from high-current power lines, electric heating sources, or electric appliances is associated with the subsequent occurrence of brain tumors in children.


Information on Washington State in Context

According to the NCI's national and state cancer death rates, in 2003, children in Washington State had a death rate from all cancers combined of 3.1 per 100,000 population, as compared to the national rate of 2.8. Washington had the sixth highest childhood cancer death rates in the country in 2003.

Quality of Information on Washington State

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on childhood cancer for 2002 by cancer type, gender and age, but the data cannot be sorted in terms of cancer types by age for a specific state.

There is a need for recent information on incidence and death rates for specific childhood cancers in Washington State. There is also a need for more information on the relationship between specific childhood cancers and exposure to environmental contaminants in Washington State, although this may be difficult because of the small numbers involved.


General Information Sources

Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

Collaborative for Health and the Environment:

Environmental Health Perspectives:

National Cancer Institute's State Cancer Profiles:

Washington State Department of Health: