By Haley Nicholson and Kate Bradford
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, shining a spotlight on the more than 15,000 cases of pediatric cancer diagnosed in people younger than 20 in the United States each year.
Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy and the most common types are leukemia, lymphoma and brain cancer.
Investments in research and awareness can benefit cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival rates. State-level engagement can be an important step in this process. This year at least 12 states passed laws that support childhood cancer through various means, including:
Nevada, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Nebraska designed new license plates to increase awareness of childhood cancer. Fees for these new plates go toward pediatric cancer programs. Florida created a new method of vehicle registration contribution that includes childhood cancer foundations.
Delaware added a new check-off donation box on the state personal income tax return, allowing individuals to donate a portion of their tax refunds to the Pediatric Cancer Research Fund.
- Research Support & Awareness
Arkansas created the Arkansas Blue Ribbon Panel on pediatric cancer research with goals of advancing research and treatment, improving childhood cancer surveillance and supporting resources for pediatric cancer patients and survivors of childhood cancers. Florida, Georgia, Iowa, New York and Illinois dedicated state budgetary funds toward childhood cancer foundations, research or other program support. Missouri created “Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma Awareness Day” in honor of a young Missourian who lost her battle with a terminal form of brain cancer.
Another important component of addressing childhood cancer is an increased effort by federal partners. In the 115th congressional session, Congress passed the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act of 2018.
Part of this law works to address the existing disparity between adult and childhood cancer research at the federal level. It addresses this gap by allowing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support the collection of medical information of children, adolescents and young adults with pediatric cancer.
NIH will use this information to better understand the effects of cancer treatment on younger populations. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will award grants to states to improve the tracking of childhood cancers.
During this month and moving forward, state and federal policymakers can seek various ways to address pediatric cancer.
Kate Bradford is a research analyst with NCSL's Health Program.
Haley Nicholson is a senior policy director, state-federal affairs, in NCSL's Health and Human Services Program.