Cancer registries collect data that are used for a variety of research applications.

Cancer registries collect data to: identify emerging cancer trends in order to understand contributing factors; investigate health disparities in cancer incidence, prevalence, mortality, and survival; understand patterns of care in the cancer patient population; and find out the impact of early detection and treatment advances on cancer incidence and outcomes. These provide important statistics to the public, which can include individuals who are epidemiologists, researchers, public health planners, legislators, physicians and other healthcare professionals, and more.

Identifying emerging cancer trends as a first step to understanding the contributing factors

Cancer has a major impact on society in the United States and across the world, and statistics helps us understand this impact. Using cancer cases collected by cancer registries, statistics can be calculated to find out how many people are diagnosed with and die from cancer each year, the number of people who are currently living after a cancer diagnosis, the average age at diagnosis, and more. A cancer incidence rate is the number of new cancers of a specific site/type occurring in a specified population during a year. A cancer mortality rate is the number of deaths, with cancer as the underlying cause of death, occurring in a specified population during a year. Identifying new trends from these rates, among other statistics, can lead to further research to understand their underlying causes or contributing factors. The National Cancer Institute provides access to a variety of published reports on cancer statistics. For more information, visit:

Investigating health disparities in cancer incidence, prevalence, mortality, and survival

Cancer affects all population groups in the United States, but certain groups may bear a disproportionate burden of cancer compared with other groups. Differences in cancer burden are called cancer health disparities, which can include measures such as cancer incidence (new cases), cancer prevalence (all existing cases), cancer death (mortality), and cancer survivorship. Population groups may vary by age, disability, education, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, income, race, and other characteristics. Through cancer registries, the SEER Program gathers data on cancer incidence and survival that aim to be representative of the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity found in the United States. For more information about cancer heath disparities, explore the links below:

Understanding patterns of care in the cancer patient population

Researchers can study cancer cases collected by cancer registries to understand patterns of care in the patient population. This includes understanding treatment trends by cancer site (e.g., breast, pancreas) and treatment disparities. The National Cancer Institute’s Patterns of Care (POC)/Quality of Care initiative is an example of efforts to understand patterns of care among cancer patients. As cancer is increasingly diagnosed and treated in the outpatient setting, the POC/Quality of Care initiative aims to study the receipt of cancer therapies that are not well documented in hospital records. Relying on cancer cases ascertained by SEER cancer registries, studies from the initiative provide national, population-based information on treatment dissemination into community practice, possible determinants of dissemination, and variations in therapy. This information allows for the identification of areas for educational programs. For more information on cancer treatment and patterns of care, visit:

Understanding the impact of early detection and treatment advances on cancer incidence and outcomes

Cancer cases collected by cancer registries can be analyzed using statistics to measure the success of efforts to control and manage cancer. These efforts include early detection of cancer and advancements in cancer treatment. While information about the method by which cancer cases are detected (e.g., screening) are not collected by registries, researchers can indirectly infer from stage distribution changes in the population of cases that people with cancer are being detected earlier. Early detection is important for progress against cancer—some patients whose cancers are detected and treated early may have better long-term survival than patients whose cancers are not found until symptoms appear. Treatment advances are fundamental to improving outcomes for cancer patients. Advances can include developing more effective and less toxic treatments, such as targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and cancer vaccines, or improving cancer therapies that have existed for decades, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Cancer incidence and other statistics generated from information collected by cancer registries help to inform the public about the impact of early detection and treatment advances. To learn more about opportunities and challenges in cancer detection and treatment research and the role of the National Cancer Institute in these areas, visit:

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