Youth cancer and what young people need to know

What is cancer?

Bodies are made up of millions of cells and these form the building blocks of life. As cells grow they change to perform different jobs. When new cells are needed they divide into two cells. 

Cancer forms when the control over the cells dividing goes wrong or when the signals that stop cells dividing do not work. The cancerous cells divide over and over. When this happens, a tumour (which is sometimes called a mass) is formed.

Some tumours are benign (not cancer) and some are malignant (cancer).

Different types of cancer

Cancer can be described as solid tumours (organ tumours) or liquid tumours (blood cancers). Both types are similar in that they are made of abnormal cells that grow uncontrollably. 

  • Solid tumours 

Refer to a solid mass of cancer cells that grow in organ systems and can occur anywhere in the body, for example breast cancer or brain cancer. 

  • Liquid tumours 

Occur in the blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes and include types of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.


Approximately 75 people aged 15 to 24 years are diagnosed with cancer each year in South Australia. The most common types of cancers seen in the 15 to 24 year age group in South Australia between 1977 and 2004 are

  • melanoma (skin cancer)
  • lymphoma
  • germ cell (testicular cancer is the most common of the germ cell cancers)
  • leukaemia (a type of blood cancer)
  • brain / central nervous system cancer
  • thyroid cancer
  • soft tissue cancer
  • bone cancer.

There are things you can do to lower your risk of getting some of these cancers. 

For example, avoiding getting sunburnt can reduce your risk of getting skin cancer. Take a look at the Cancer Council website for some helpful tips on reducing your chance of getting cancer.

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