Cancer Registries: Identifying High-Risk Groups

Photo of a trailer park in Camden, New Jersey.

Cancer registry data have shown that people with a low socioeconomic status are more likely to get some kinds of cancer.

The information that cancer registries collect helps them identify groups of people who are more likely to get a certain kind of cancer. Other groups can use this information to try to figure out why. They may find that some people aren’t getting the cancer screening tests they need, or they’re doing things that make them more likely to get cancer, or that something in their home or workplace is causing cancer. For example, cancer registry data have shown that the following groups of people are more likely to get some kinds of cancer—

  • People with a low socioeconomic status.
  • Women whose mothers took a certain medicine while they were pregnant.
  • Non-Hispanic white women, especially those who use tanning beds.

The following examples show how cancer registries in CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries are using their data to identify high-risk groups.

Michigan: Organ Transplant Patients Have a Higher Cancer Risk

The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, a database that contains information about more than 362,000 people who have received an organ transplant, was linked to cancer databases in Michigan and 12 other states. The results showed that organ transplant patients have a much higher risk of getting cancer, especially the kinds of cancer that are related to infections. This is mostly because transplant patients have to take medicine that suppresses their immune system; otherwise, their bodies would reject the donated organ.

The Health Resources and Services Administration will use this information to make organ transplants safer, and doctors will look for any signs of cancer when they provide follow-up care to transplant patients.

Massachusetts: Finding Cervical Cancer Earlier Among Black Women

In Massachusetts, despite high rates of screening, non-Hispanic black women are more likely than women of other ethnic groups to be diagnosed late for cervical cancer and to die from the disease. The Massachusetts Cancer Registry held focus groups to learn why cervical cancer is often found at a late stage among this group of women. These results were used to develop an educational campaign that explains the importance of screening to find breast and cervical cancers early, when they are easiest to treat.

New York: Neighborhood-Level Data Reveal Ethnic Disparities

The New York State Cancer Registry looked at the rates of new cases of colorectal cancer among Asians and Pacific Islanders in neighborhoods in New York City. The registry found low rates except for Pacific Islanders in the Flushing borough. In response to this information, the New York City Cancer Services Program helped Pacific Islanders in this area get screened for colorectal cancer.

Texas: Babies with Some Kinds of Birth Defects Are Three Times More Likely to Get Cancer

The Texas Cancer Registry and the Texas Birth Defects Registry were linked for a study to find out if children with birth defects were more likely to get cancer than children without birth defects. The study found that children with a birth defect had three times the risk of getting cancer during their childhood than other children.

This study helps doctors understand the link between birth defects and childhood cancers.