Cancer Registry

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: December 29, 2023

What Does Cancer Registry Mean?

A cancer registry is a database that collects, stores, and manages data about people who have been diagnosed with cancer.

The information in these registries is critical to the study of cancer, research into potential cures, and gauging the progress made in reducing cancer rates. It is also vital for tracking noncommunicable diseases.

Safeopedia Explains Cancer Registry

Cancer is a disease that affects the lives of millions worldwide. It is estimated that about 2 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer in 2023, and that an estimated 609,820 people will die from it.

The most common cancer diagnoses are:

  • Breast cancer, with an estimated 297,790 women and 2,800 men diagnosed each year
  • Prostate cancer, which is the leading cancer diagnosis in men
  • Lung and bronchus cancer, with an estimated 238,340 new cases annually

All this data is available thanks to cancer registries and the cancer registrars who collect and report data to them.

The Purpose of Cancer Registries

Cancer registries can be useful for health officials to determine which substances make people more prone to developing cancer and help eliminate or substitute them for less harmful alternatives.

Cancer allow researchers and government officials to determine:

  • Which types of cancers are increasing or decreasing
  • Who is more likely to get certain types of cancers
  • What chemical compounds are linked with specific types of cancers
  • Whether age, race, and location affect types of cancers

Tracking Occupational Cancers

Some occupations come with a high risk of exposure to carcinogenic substances, which have the potential to cause cancer in workers.

Construction and masonry workers, for instance, have long been exposed to high concentrations of silica dust. Prolonged exposure can result in lung cancer, along with other lung conditions such as silicosis.

While more strictly regulated now, asbestos exposure used to be common in many industries. Breathing in airborne particulates from friable asbestos-containing materials put workers at risk of developing mesothelioma, an aggressive type of lung cancer that leaves most patients with a very short life expectancy.

Data collected by cancer registries has allowed these and other occupational cancers to be better understood and studied more closely. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other occupational safety agencies have developed guidelines, standards, and regulations to limit exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, such as OSHA’s standards for crystalline silica, which were implemented in 2017.

Types of Cancer Registries

There are two major types of cancer registries: population-based and hospital-based.

Population-Based Cancer Registries

Population-based registries record all cancer cases in a defined population, such as a state or metropolitan area. They are designed to support epidemiology and public health.

Population-based registries help determine:

  • Cancer patterns among populations and sub-populations
  • Cancer trends over time
  • Planning and evaluation methodologies for cancer control
  • How to allocate health resource
  • How to advance epidemiological, clinical, and health services research

Hospital-Based Cancer Registries

Hospital-based registries record and maintain data on all cancer patients who have been diagnosed or treated at a particular healthcare facility, with the aim of improving the care provided to its patients. These registries are also used for clinical research, administrative processes, and professional education.

Special Cancer Registries

Special cancer registries collect and maintain data on a particular type of cancer or a special population.


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