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Questions and Answers About the U.S. Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations Tool

What is the U.S. Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations tool?

The U.S. Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations Tool displays the official federal statistics on cancer incidence (newly diagnosed cases) from each registry that met data quality criteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have combined their cancer incidence data sources to produce these statistics. Mortality data are from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) National Vital Statistics System (NVSS).

This tool provides incidence and death counts, rates and trend data, survival and prevalence estimates, state- and county- specific data in a user-driven format. Users can display the output in tables, graphic files, and shareable formats designed for e-mail and social media sites. The data presented include cancer cases diagnosed and cancer deaths that occurred from 1999 to 2015, for the most recent 5-years combined (2011 to 2015), and for 2015 alone, which is the most recent year that incidence data are available.

What data does the U.S. Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations tool contain?

It includes incidence data on more than 1 million cases of invasive cancer (including approximately 15,000 cases among children younger than 20 years) diagnosed in each of the individual years. The population coverage varies by diagnosis year. Population coverage may be affected by the suppression of state incidence data if 16 or fewer cases were reported or if the state requested that the data be suppressed. For the most recent release, data from 100% of the U.S. population are displayed.

The tool also includes mortality data from malignant cancers as recorded in the National Vital Statistics System from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Mortality data are available for 100% of the U.S. population.

Cancer incidence and mortality trend data is presented from 1999 through 2015, and includes 98% the U.S. population. The tool also prevents survival and prevalence estimates, which are based on data from 81% of the U.S. population.

What are the sources of the data?

Information on newly diagnosed cancer cases is based on data collected by registries in CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) and NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. Together, the two federal programs collect cancer incidence data for the entire U.S. population. These data can be used to monitor cancer trends over time, determine cancer patterns in various populations, guide planning and evaluation of cancer control programs, help set priorities for allocating health resources, and provide information for a national database of cancer incidence. Information on cancer deaths is collected by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) National Vital Statistics System (NVSS).

Cancer incidence rates and death are presented by race and ethnicity. What cautions should be used in interpreting differences by race and ethnicity?

Differences in rates among racial and ethnicity (Hispanic origin) populations should be interpreted with caution. A study using SEER data suggests that the quality of race data in cancer registries is considered excellent for whites, blacks, and Asians/Pacific Islanders, substantial for Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives have been shown to be considerably underreported. A study involving cancer mortality data show that death rates for whites and blacks are generally reliable, whereas death rates for Asians/Pacific Islanders, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Hispanics are underestimated. Therefore, incidence and/or mortality data published in this report may be underestimated for Asians/Pacific Islanders, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Hispanics, possibly due to racial and Hispanic origin misclassification. NCHS is working with states to improve the reporting of race and ethnicity on death certificates.

Grouping racial or Hispanic origin subpopulations into one racial or Hispanic origin population can mask differences in subpopulations. Asians/Pacific Islanders, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Hispanics are not homogeneous groups. The subpopulations are grouped into single populations because of small numbers or concerns regarding the possible misclassification of race and Hispanic origin among the subpopulations. Cancer rates by more detailed categories of race have been published in scientific journals.

What are the federal programs doing to improve state and national surveillance for cancer incidence?

Both NPCR and SEER provide training and technical assistance to cancer registries. Examples of this assistance include—

  • Providing on-site technical assistance to registry personnel to help ensure data completeness, timeliness, and quality. For example, software has been developed to facilitate data transmission and improve the quality of data that hospitals transmit electronically to cancer registries.
  • Coordinating and convening meetings of registry personnel for information sharing, problem solving, and training.
  • Helping states and national organizations use cancer data to describe regional, state, and national disease burdens; to evaluate cancer control activities; and to identify populations or geographic regions at high risk for certain cancers.
  • Collaborating with academic, federal, state, and private organizations to design and conduct research using data collected through population-based state and regional registries and to report the findings.
  • Promoting specialty training in epidemiology, biostatistics, surveillance research, and tumor registry methods, operations, and management.
  • Developing new statistical methods, models, and software for the analysis and presentation of national, state, and small-area cancer statistics.
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