Tel Aviv Has Highest Rate of Childhood Cancer in Israel, Report Finds

Arab kids have lower cancer rate than Jewish kids - but also lower recovery rate.

Children and adolescents in Tel Aviv and its environs are more likely to get cancer than children from other areas in Israel, says a new report written by doctors from several hospitals and institutes.

The report published in the Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, based on data received from the Health Ministry, found that children in the Tel Aviv district, which includes Holon, Bat Yam, Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Bnei Brak, Kiryat Ono and Herzliya, had the highest ratio of cancer patients - 180.2 per million. High ratios were reported across the central district, including the Sharon settlements, Petah Tikva, Ramle and Lod (178.1 per million ). Lower ratios were reported in the south (169.1 per million ), Jerusalem district (168.8 per million ), Haifa and its environs (168.5 per million ), northern Israel (150.8 per million ) and the Jewish settlements in the West Bank (147.9 per million ).

The report examined data from 1998 through 2007 on 4,255 cancer patients under the age of 20.

The recovery rate among children and adolescents in Israel is high - 80.8 percent survive cancer five years after being diagnosed, a percentage slightly higher than that reported in the United States - 79.8.

Jewish children in Israel have a higher chance of having cancer (177.6 per million ) than Arab children (156.7 per million ), but recovery chances among Jews are higher - 83.2 percent compared to 72.8 percent. Dr. Micha Barchana, one of the researchers of the report, and formerly director of cancer registration at the Health Ministry, says that the gaps in recovery percentages do not reflect differences in the quality of treatment.

"When researching these gaps we discovered that in the Arab community cancer is diagnosed in much later stages, when the tumor has already spread, making recovery chances slimmer. This finding is more prominent among adults but is also true for children. As for the the medical treatment, there is no difference between the two populations, since primary treatment is available in Arab and Jewish cities and villages, and both populations are treated in the same hospitals."

Breaking the data down, the recovery percentages in Israel and the United States are similar for the more widespread forms of cancer among children and adolescents - leukemia and lymphoma. Still, recovery rates from liver cancer are almost twice as high in the United States (62% ) compared to Israel (39.1% ), while recovery rates from tumors in sex organs were higher in Israel (95% ) than in the United States (89.6 % ).

The overall cancer rate in Israel, including children and adults, is 172.4 per million, similar to data collected in America's western states. Israel has a relatively low proportion of leukemia patients, and relatively high proportion of lymphoma and neuroblastoma patients. Israeli children are less likely to have brain cancer than children in other Middle Eastern states, including Egypt and Turkey.

The most common forms of cancer among children and adolescents in Israel are leukemia (21.8% ) and lymphoma (20.6% ).