National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR)

Cancer Registries: Measuring Progress. Targeting Action.

Cancer registries provide the data-driven foundation for cancer control efforts in the United States. Find out what they are, how they work, and who can use the data they provide.

Recognizing the need for more complete local, state, regional, and national data on cancer incidence, in 1992 Congress established the National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) by enacting the Cancer Registries Amendment Act, later incorporated into the Public Health Service (PHS) Act [42 U.S.C. 242k]. Congress mandated CDC to provide funds to state and territorial health departments (or their authorized agencies) at a ratio of 3:1 to match state support for the central cancer registry. As of 2021, CDC funds 50 cancer registries: 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Pacific Island Jurisdictions, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

NPCR continues to—

  • Monitor the state and national burden of cancer.
  • Identify variation in cancer incidence for racial and ethnic populations and for regions within a state, between states, and between regions.
  • Provide data for research.
  • Provide guidance for the allocation of health resources.
  • Respond to public concerns and inquiries about cancer.
  • Improve planning for future health care needs.
  • Evaluate activities in cancer prevention and control.

In January 2001, NPCR-funded registries began reporting their incidence data annually to CDC. The registries report data to CDC beginning with cases diagnosed in the first year for which they collected data with the assistance of NPCR funds. Data from the special population cancer registries or the SEER metropolitan area cancer registries operating in Alaska, Arizona, California, Michigan, and Washington are reported to their respective NPCR state cancer registries for inclusion in those states’ incidence data and are transmitted to CDC as part of the state’s annual data submission.

In the 2021 data submission, CDC received information on more than 35.8 million invasive cancer cases, and 2.6 million in situ cases diagnosed during 1995 through 2019. In addition, 857,699 benign and borderline brain and central nervous system tumors were reported during 2004 through 2019. More than 1.75 million new invasive cancer cases are added each year.

In conjunction with the annual release of United States Cancer Statistics (USCS) data, CDC’s NPCR recognizes each funded central cancer registry for its achievement of NPCR’s Standards for Data Completeness, Timeliness, and Quality. All standards are indicative of complete, timely, and quality data available for cancer control activities addressing the burden on U.S. populations. Meeting these standards allows inclusion of the program’s data in USCS data products.

The release of USCS data in products including the Data Visualizations Tool and Public Use Databases exemplifies the progress achieved in creating a national system of cancer surveillance. Many people are involved in the collection, analysis, and reporting of cancer incidence and mortality data. Data from state and county levels can be used to plan and evaluate cancer control programs, conduct research, and monitor cancer trends. Partners such as the central cancer registry are crucial to the success of cancer surveillance in the United States. The efforts and achievements of many partner organizations contribute to USCS data products and the advances in cancer surveillance in the United States.

USCS data products include—

  • A web-based data visualizations tool that displays USCS data, the official federal cancer statistics.
  • Public use databases for researchers to analyze more than 33 million cases of de-identified data reported by NPCR- and SEER-funded registries.
  • A public use data set of pre-calculated cancer incidence and death rates on CDC WONDER.
  • Data briefs and Stat Bites on cancer burden intended for general audiences.
  • A website designed to help guide and prioritize cancer control activities at the state and county level at State Cancer Profiles.
  • A restricted-access dataset available to researchers through the National Center for Health Statistics Research Data Center.