Purpose: Statistics on cancer prevalence are scanty. The objectives of this study were to describe the cancer prevalence in Italy and to explore determinants of geographic heterogeneity.
Methods: The study included data from 23 population-based cancer registries, including one-third of the Italian population. Five-year cancer prevalence was observed, and complete prevalence (i.e., all patients living after a cancer diagnosis) was estimated through sex-, age-, cancer site-, and observation period length-specific completeness indices by means of regression models.
Results: In 2006, 3.8 % of men and 4.6 % of women in Italy were alive after a cancer diagnosis, with a 5-year prevalence of 1.9 % and 1.7 % in men and women, respectively. A relevant geographic variability emerged for all major cancer sites. When compared to national pooled estimates, crude cancer prevalence proportions were 10 % higher in the north and 30 % lower in the south of Italy. However, these variations were consistently reduced after age adjustment and, in both sexes, largely overlapped those of incidence rates, with correlations >0.90 between variations of prevalence and incidence for all cancer sites and areas.
Conclusions: Magnitude of the cancer prevalence and the geographic heterogeneity herein outlined in Italy will help in meeting the needs of specific population of survivor patients.