Cancer registries are valuable epidemiologic tools that can inform cancer prevention policies, early diagnosis, and treatment practices.

But cancer registries’ geographic coverage and quality varies dramatically around the world, noted Sujha Subramanian, PhD, of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, NC, and colleagues in Cancer Epidemiology.1

“There is almost 100% coverage in North America, but less than 10% in Central and South America, Asia and Africa,” noted coauthor Florence K. L. Tangka, PhD, of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA.2 “These countries are essentially fighting cancer blindfolded as they often can’t know how to best direct their resources.”

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There is an “urgent need” to establish sustainable cancer registries and to ensure high quality data are recorded in those databases, they reported. 

Governments around the world have approved the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD)  Global Monitoring Framework and have committed to reducing cancer and other NCD deaths by 25% in the coming 8 years, the coauthors noted.

Population-based cancer registries are needed to achieve that goal, they warned. But budget support is not always reliable from year to year.

A “lack of continuous and sustained support for surveillance infrastructure can disrupt data collection and lead to the inefficient use of resources,” Dr Tangka cautioned. “Although cancer registries incur substantial set-up costs, once established the cost per case is low and countries then benefit from economies of scale.”

Registering a patient with cancer’s data can cost as little as $0.01 per patient, the coauthors reported. 


1. Saraiya M, Tangka FKL, Asma S, Richardson LC. Importance of economic evaluation of cancer registration in the resource limited setting: laying the groundwork for surveillance systems. Cancer Epidemiol. December 15, 2016. DOI:10.1016/j.canep.2016.10.001 [Epub ahead of print]

2. Cancer Epidemiology (Elsevier). Press release: Cancer registries in resource-constrained countries can inform policy to reduce cancer burden. December 5, 2016.