Aim: To present data on cancer prevalence for the areas covered by Italian cancer registries, by using a standardized set of data collection and elaboration criteria, and a single method of data analysis.
Subjects and methods: Data on over 250,000 patients with cancer, diagnosed between 1978 and 1992, from 11 Italian cancer registries covering about 12% of the Italian population were collected, validated and analyzed according to the unified protocol of the ITAPREVAL project. The method implemented in the PREVAL computer program was used to provide prevalence estimates for the period covered by cancer registration. The total prevalence for each registry and for the pool of all registries was then estimated by correcting for incomplete observations due to the period in which the registration was not yet activated. All prevalence estimates were for 1992.
Results: Prevalence figures are presented by cancer site, age, sex, years from diagnosis and registry area. For all malignancies combined, total prevalence ranged from 1,350 per 100,000 inhabitants in Ragusa to 3,650 per 100,000 inhabitants in Romagna, the ratio between these two extremes being 2.7. For the pool of the areas covered by registration cancer prevalence was 3,100 per 100,000 females and 2,250 per 100,000 males. About a third of the total female cases and about half the male cases were diagnosed in the previous five years. Among those aged over 75 years, total prevalence was higher for males than for females: 11,300 versus 8,900 per 100,000 respectively.
Conclusions: This is the first large-scale estimate of the burden of cancer in Italy. It is also one of the first studies in the world which was aimed to study cancer prevalence in detail. These data are necessary for predicting health service needs and help in the evaluation of differences in health service demand by sex, age and Italian regions.