The cancer registry has a pivotal role in cancer control. Its
primary function is the maintenance of a file or register of all
cancer cases occurring in a defined population in which the
personal particulars of cancer patients and the clinical and
pathological characteristics of the cancers, collected
continuously and systematically from various data sources, are
The registry analyzes and interprets such data periodically and
provides information on the incidence and characteristics of
specific cancers in various segments of the resident population
and on temporal variations in incidence. Such information is the primary resource not only for
epidemiological research on cancer determinants, but also for
planning and evaluating health services for the prevention,
diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Cancer registries can also be used for monitoring occupational
groups and cohorts of individuals exposed to various carcinogens
and as a convenient source of subjects for clinical and
epidemiological studies. Those based in hospitals have an
important supportive role in the care of cancer patients by
assisting clinicians in the follow-up of their cases and by
providing statistical data on the results of therapy.
The value of a cancer registry depends on the quality of its
data and the extent to which they are used in research and
health services planning. It is obviously important that the
registration of cancer cases should be as complete as possible.
The operation of some registries is somewhat curtailed by laws
or regulations, designed to ensure secrecy of information, that
prevent cross-linkage of different data files, including access
to the personal identity of deceased persons in death records.
Epidemiological research, based on comprehensive cancer
registration, remains the most valid and efficient way to plan
and evaluate all aspects of cancer control.
Most of the cancer registries now in operation, and whose data
are published in the IARC series Cancer Incidence in Five
Continents, are in Europe and North America. The data collected
by individual registries may vary according to local needs and
availability of information, but the nomenclature and definition
of each item should be the same in all registries to facilitate
international comparability of cancer data.
Our registry at AUBMC conforms to the norms set by the
International Agency for Research on Cancer and the
International Association of Cancer Registries which aims to
provide guidelines on all aspects of cancer registration (IARC
Scientific Publications No. 21). The importance of cancer
registration in planning and evaluating cancer-related health
services is dealt with in greater detail in the IARC monograph
The Role of the Registry in Cancer Control (IARC Scientific
Publications No. 66). There is a major emphasis on population-based registration which is primarily concerned with the
epidemiological and public health aspects of cancer control. The
items of data recommended for registration have been kept to a
minimum, with emphasis on the quality rather than the volume of
information; these may be expanded, if necessary, to suit local
needs. Our hope is that our hospital-based cancer registries,
which are more concerned with the care of patients, clinical
research and hospital administration, may serve as the nucleus
for the later development of population-based registration in
our country. Work on a national tumor registry has started years
ago but has never materialized.