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Common Types of Childhood Cancer

The following overview provides details about the most common types of childhood cancer and their locations.


Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and tissues that produce the circulating blood cells. Leukemias are the most common childhood cancers.

Types of leukemia include:

  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), which is the most common childhood cancer. Almost 75 percent of children with leukemia have ALL, a cancer of the lymphoid cells in the bone marrow and the lymphoid organs of the body, which are involved in the body’s immunological functions.
  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), also called acute myeloid leukemia, acute nonlymphatic leukemia or ANLL. AML is cancer of the myeloid blood cells which are produced in the bone marrow and help fight bacterial infections


Lymphoma is a tumor of the lymph tissues, which are part of the immune system.

Types of lymphoma include:

  • Hodgkin's disease or Hodgkin's lymphoma, which affects lymph nodes nearer to the body’s surface, such as in the neck, armpit and groin area.

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which affect lymph nodes found deep within the body.

Cancers of the Central Nervous System

Cancers of the nervous system include cancers of the brain and spinal cord.

  • Brain tumors have many types, but the most common are called gliomas.
  • Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system, which most often originates in the adrenal glands above the kidney.


Sarcomas are cancerous tumors involving the bones and soft tissues.

Types of bone cancers include:

  • Osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone sarcoma. These tumors often are located at the growing end of the long bones of the extremities, close to the joints.
  • Ewings sarcoma, a bone cancer that often appears in the middle of the bone, particularly the thighs, hipbones, upper arms and ribs.

Types of soft tissue sarcomas include:

  • Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue sarcoma that develops in muscles, is most often found in the head, neck, kidneys, bladder, arms and legs.

Liver Cancers

Liver cancer is an abnormal growth or tumor  in the liver. 

One of the most common forms of liver cancer in children is:

  • Hepatoblastoma, a form of liver cancer that usually occurs in infants. In contrast to hepatocellular carcinoma, it arises in an otherwise normal liver.

Cancers of the Kidney

  • Wilms’ tumor, also known as nephroblastoma, is the most common malignant tumor of the kidney in children. The peak period of Wilms' tumor occurrence is between ages three and eight. Wilms' tumor may arise in either kidney and rarely affects both.

  • Clear cell sarcoma of the kidney is a primary kidney tumor that can spread to the lung, bone, brain and soft tissue.

Other Types of Cancers

  • Retinoblastoma, a childhood cancer arising from immature retinal cells in one or both eyes, can strike from the time a child is in the womb up to five years of age.  This cancer is relatively uncommon and curable if caught early enough.
  • Germ cell tumors appear most commonly in the testes, ovaries, the area at the bottom of the spine (sacrococcygeal) and in the middle of the brain, chest or abdomen.

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