New research suggests that children who are diagnosed with cancer in the UK will not survive as long as European youngsters with similar conditions.
A report published in the latest issue of The Lancet Oncology claims that youngsters "continue to be a low priority for the NHS".
The authors refer to a trial carried out in Germany, which showed that 27.4% of youngsters had their cancer identified during an unrelated visit to a health professional or by routine surveillance.
By comparison, in a similar study in the UK, only 11% of patients at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London had their cancers identified in such circumstances.
The authors, Alan Craft, of the Institute of Child Health, Newcastle, and Kathy Pritchard-Jones, of the Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research, said that early diagnosis in the German trial could be linked to an increased survival rate.
However, Dr Carole Easton, chief executive of childhood cancer charity CLIC Sargent, expressed doubts over the report.
She said UK survival rates for childhood cancer have increased over the past 30 years, with seven out of 10 youngsters now surviving their illness.
She added: "Cancer registry data is collected differently throughout Europe and this can make international comparisons, like this one, unreliable."