Overview of the SEER-Medicare data: content, research applications, and generalizability to the United States elderly population

Med Care. 2002 Aug;40(8 Suppl):IV-3-18. doi: 10.1097/01.MLR.0000020942.47004.03.


Background: The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare-linked database combines clinical information from population-based cancer registries with claims information from the Medicare program. The use of this database to study cancer screening, treatment, outcomes, and costs has grown in recent years.

Research design: This paper provides an overview of the SEER-Medicare files for investigators interested in using these data for epidemiologic and health services research. The overview includes a description of the linkage of SEER and Medicare data and the files included as part of SEER-Medicare. The paper also describes the types of research projects that have been undertaken using the SEER-Medicare data. The overview concludes with a comparison of selected characteristics of elderly persons residing in the SEER areas to the US total aged.

Results: The paper identifies a number of potential uses of the SEER-Medicare data. The comparison of the elderly population in SEER areas to the US total shows that in the SEER areas there are a lower percentage of white persons and individuals living in poverty, and a higher percentage of urban-dwellers than the US total. Elderly persons in the SEER regions also have higher rates of HMO enrollment and lower rates of cancer mortality.

Conclusions: The SEER-Medicare data are a unique resource that can be used for a variety of health services research projects. Although there are some differences between the elderly residing in the SEER areas and the US total, the SEER-Medicare data offer a large population-based cohort that can be used to longitudinally track care for persons over the course of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Record Linkage
  • Medicare*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • SEER Program / organization & administration*
  • United States / epidemiology