Every year about 1,400 children in Britain are diagnosed with cancer. It is undoubtedly a devastating and traumatic time for both them and their families.

While major advances have been made in how childhood cancers are treated, a gap is opening up between patients who are diagnosed before the age of 15 and those who are over 16.

Dr Mike Hawkins, a reader in epidemiology at Birmingham University, will address the NCRI's three-day conference, at the International Convention Centre, on how teenagers and young adults are being left out of clinical trials and overlooked by research.

"Many cancer patients who are diagnosed at a young age, often pre-teens, are almost automatically asked to take part in clinical trials or studies," he said.

"As a result they benefit from new state-of-the-art treatments, which is fantastic, but after the age of 15 these young patients are technically classed as adult cases, less than ten per cent being included in such studies.

"We want to see this rolled out to teenagers and young adults now as well."

Dr Hawkins also backed The Birmingham Post's Cancer 2020 campaign, claiming the existing Cancer Plan must be revised to ensure teenagers and young adults are given equal access to clinical studies and services.

"People sometimes refer to this group, those aged 15 to 29, as the 'lost tribe'," he said. "The accessibility of services after 15 is a very big issue.

"We've built up strict standards of care for children with cancer but we want to move that onto teenagers and young adults. They are at an increased risk from side effects such as premature menopause or reduced fertility.

"If this is not covered by a new Cancer Plan they will continue to fall through the cracks and miss out on treatment."

The British Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (BCCSS), which is being led by Dr Hawkins, is asking 14,000 "survivors" about their own cancer journeys and what impact their treatment has had in later life, such as side effects or recurrent health problems.

The BCCSS is also examining their general health in the years after treatment, their quality of life and whether they went on to have healthy children of their own.

Once completed, it will provide the first reliable and comprehensive estimates of the risks facing childhood cancer survivors later in life.

Incidence of childhood cancers have risen steadily since the 1960s, when only one in four patients survived, but in the past 40 years that ratio has climbed to three in four beating cancer.

Dr Hawkins added: "Young people have very good survival rates, 75 per cent of this age group survive for five or more years.

"So it's critical to establish if here is a risk of ill side effects because they had cancer treatment at an early age."

He continued: "The next two or three years will be a very fertile period for similar research.

"Cancer is becoming increasingly treatable and manageable, it's no longer a death sentence, so that's why it's important to research and understand any long-term effects of treatment on young patients." ..SUPL: