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National Cancer Institute   U.S. National Institutes of
Rapid Response Surveillance Studies
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Methodological Issues - Factors Influencing Incidence

The surveillance of cancer incidence and factors influencing incidence are a primary goals of NCI's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. The RRSS mechanism has funded studies to improve cancer incidence calculations. These studies have covered a range of topics, from improving calculations of group specific incidence rates to investigating methods to improve timely reporting of cancer cases.

RRSS investigators are conducting studies to:

  • examine methods for calculating cancer incidence rates specific to race and ethnicity;
  • investigate methods for collecting data on all non-melanoma skin cancers in New Mexico;
  • determine possible methods for reducing reporting delay and reporting error in melanoma surveillance;
  • examine SEER data to determine its utility to identify HIV-associated cancers;
  • validate area-based indicators of socioeconomic status in the cancer registry database.

Registries Funded to Conduct these Studies

Detroit (Metropolitan)
Los Angeles
New Mexico
Northern California Cancer Center (SF-OAK)
Seattle (Puget Sound)

Key Findings

In studies where income and education are not measured, researchers often use census tract data as a surrogate. When income and education as reported by the patient were compared to census tract and block groups in this registry in a sparsely populated geographic region, the correlations were quite low (0.3-0.4).

A study of factors involved in delayed melanoma reporting to cancer registries found that delays were related to physicians who treated melanoma patients but failed to report them to the registry.

The only feasible method for some registries to obtain data on non-melanoma skin cancer may be through contact with physician and pathology departments. The electronic transfer of pathology reports could not be carried out.

Future Use

Additional studies to examine use of census data in other registries are underway. Lessons learned about methods to improve the reporting of melanoma data have been shared with other registries.


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