Descriptive epidemiology of cancer in developing countries and its importance to cancer control


Session type:

D. Maxwell Parkin
Clinical Trial Service Unit, University of Oxford & Cancer Registry Programme, International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research, Oxford, UK


Cancer control aims to reduce the incidence, morbidity, and mortality of cancer and to improve the quality of life of cancer patients through the systematic implementation of evidence-based interventions in prevention, early diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care. Data on the size and evolution of the cancer burden in the population are essential to evaluation of the current situation, to setting objectives for cancer control, and defining priorities. Cancer data are also essential in monitoring the success (or otherwise) of interventions.

National vital statistics systems, giving information on cause specific mortality, are available in some low and middle income countries (LMICs), but are defective or absent in many. Population based cancer registries provide an alternative means of surveillance, and also add important components to simple mortality statistics, by providing data on incidence, stage distribution, treatment patterns, and survival. Currently, the best available information on cancer incidence, mortality and prevalence at the national level in LMICs is provided by the GLOBOCAN project of IARC ( GLOBOCAN draws upon the global network of cancer registries to provide information on incidence and survival to inform the estimation process.

Cancer registries provide too a platform for conducting studies into the important causes of cancer in the local situation, and for providing information about the prevalence of exposure to these factors in the population. These permit quantitative estimation of the relative importance of different preventive interventions.