Cancer surveillance research: a vital subdiscipline of cancer epidemiology

Cancer Causes Control. 2005 Nov;16(9):1009-19. doi: 10.1007/s10552-005-4501-2.


Public health surveillance systems relevant to cancer, centered around population-based cancer registration, have produced extensive, high-quality data for evaluating the cancer burden. However, these resources are underutilized by the epidemiology community due, we postulate, to under-appreciation of their scope and of the methods and software for using them. To remedy these misperceptions, this paper defines cancer surveillance research, reviews selected prior contributions, describes current resources, and presents challenges to and recommendations for advancing the field. Cancer surveillance research, in which systematically collected patient and population data are analyzed to examine and test hypotheses about cancer predictors, incidence, and outcomes in geographically defined populations over time, has produced not only cancer statistics and etiologic hypotheses but also information for public health education and for cancer prevention and control. Data on cancer patients are now available for all US states and, within SEER, since 1973, and have been enhanced by linkage to other population-based resources. Appropriate statistical methods and sophisticated interactive analytic software are readily available. Yet, publication of papers, funding opportunities, and professional training for cancer surveillance research remain inadequate. Improvement is necessary in these realms to permit cancer surveillance research to realize its potential in resolving the growing cancer burden.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Epidemiologic Research Design*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Public Health Informatics
  • Publishing
  • SEER Program
  • Software