Need stats? How to find the most up-to-date cancer statistics

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Cancer Statistics Review website

The most frequent request NCI receives from reporters is to provide the latest cancer statistics: incidence, mortality, and survival, often broken down by age, race, or gender.  To provide this information, press officers from NCI’s Office of Media Relations turn to the Cancer Statistics Review, a report published by NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program.

The CSR, updated just this morning with new incidence statistics, contains the most recent data available on incidence (the rate or number of new cases), mortality (deaths), survival, prevalence, and lifetime risk statistics for 27 cancers.  Unlike other statistical cancer reports (Annual Report to the Nation and Cancer Trends Progress Report), the CSR is purely about numbers, without interpretation.  The CSR is updated each year, as soon as new numbers are ready, ensuring that its figures are as up-to-date as possible.  Today’s update includes data on incidence rates through 2008 (previously 2007).  Mortality and lifetime risk updates for 2008 are expected in a few months. The three-year lag between the date of diagnosis or death and the posting of information is due to the time it takes for local registries to assemble and deliver individual case outcomes to NCI, along with the time it takes for those cases to be vetted for quality assurance.  For a number of years, NCI has also included delay-adjusted numbers in its report, in order to compensate for underestimates that may be caused by additional cancers diagnosed in 2008 or prior years that the statisticians anticipate will be reported after the CSR is released.

For reporters seeking cancer statistics, the 2008 data are as up-to-date as they come.

Each year the SEER program teams up with the American Cancer Society and others to apply incidence and mortality rates (usually per 100,000 people in the U.S. population), from the CSR against current population data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in order to estimate the number of cancer cases expected in the current year. The calculations of estimates for the number of new cancer cases for 2011 will be completed in several months. These estimates, which will be reported in the CSR, as well as ACS’s Facts and Figures, may seem more current, but those projections will be extrapolated from the 2008 data.

The CSR provides three ways to access the data provided in the report.  You can:

Browse the Tables and Figures

The first option allows you to pick individual tables and charts by first selecting the type of cancer you are interested in, followed by selecting the table. Once you make your selection, your table will appear just below the selection boxes, and you will have the option to download and/or print the data.

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This option is best if you know exactly what you are looking for, and only need one type of statistic.

Access Contents in PDF

The second option, which is preferred by several of NCI’s press officers, is to view the report’s table of contents to select data in PDF form. While it can be a bit daunting at first, this option lets you see everything that is available in the report, to help you figure out what you are looking for.  The contents are broken down into three columns; summary tables, CSR sections (or chapters), and pages grouped by topic.

IScreen shot from the first column (see image), the summary tables provide data for some of the most commonly requested statistics, across several cancer sites. There are charts comparing lifetime risk of developing certain cancers, cancer mortality rates by race, and average age of diagnosis, to name just a few examples.

In the second column, the CSR sections are divided by cancer site. This option is best if you want to see every type of statistic available for a particular type of cancer.  In addition to organ-sites, there are chapters for childhood cancers, adolescent/young adult cancers, and soft tissue sarcomas, as well as info on benign (non-cancerous) brain tumors.

In the final column, as in the summary, the tables presented represent all 27 types of cancer and are grouped by topic.  These groupings provide more data in each section, however, as they represent all the data, and are not summaries.

Generate Custom Reports

The final option, generating custom reports, is best for people who need to distribute, in a single document, a collection of several of the tables and figures described above.  This particular option tends to be less useful to members of the media than the previous two browsing methods.  However, those who need this type of customized report can select multiple statistics, cancer sites, and race/ethnicities by using the Advanced Options.

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Since 1973, the SEER program has been collecting data on cancer cases from various locations and sources throughout the United States. Over the years, their data has been helpful to many as they try to communicate cancer research news.  As always, if you are a member of the media and would like help navigating the CSR, or if would like to request an interview with one of our statisticians, NCI’s Office of Media Relations is  only a phone call, email or tweet away.

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