The questions below are about the different types of statistical and epidemiological information on cancer that we produce.
Please click on the question of interest, or simply scroll down the list to view all answers
On this page:
- Why do the registrations data I am looking at sometimes differ from other published data for the same time period?
- Why don't you have more up to date statistics?
- Why do the mortality statistics on this web site differ from those published elsewhere?
- Is there any difference between the printed CancerStats reports and the information I can access online?
- Why do you say the information in the CancerStats section is aimed at health professionals?
- How do I reference the information from these pages?
- Why can the number of deaths be higher than the number of cases for some non-specific cancer types?
Cancer registrations are usually completed within two years of diagnosis but, in a small proportion of cases, the process can take longer. Consequently the cancer registration databases held by the Cancer Registries in the UK, and by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), are continually being updated.
Cancer Research UK has used an extract of data from ONS as the source of the data for England to collate the UK figures. In contrast, the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) has obtained data for England from the National Cancer Information Service, which has data extracted directly from the eight regional Cancer Registries around England.
The two extracts from these sources have been taken at different times and, thus, there will be minor differences between them. As registration databases are regularly updated and revised, any resulting presentation of data may differ slightly from other published data relating to the same time period. Such differences are nearly always trivial.
The incidence statistics available on this website are compiled from data produced by the regional cancer registries in England, and the three national registries in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Before we can publish UK annual incidence statistics we have to wait until all of the data from the countries of the UK has been published. The process of registering a cancer is complex and there are a number of processes in place to ensure the data is of a high quality. This means there is usually a delay of around 18 months before the data is complete enough to be published.
The mortality statistics are derived from the statutory death registrations in the countries of the UK. As it is a legal requirement to register deaths quickly, the mortality data for the UK can be compiled more quickly, but there is still a delay of around 12 months before we are able to publish the data.
The survival data we mainly use are calculated using the official data from the Office for National Statistics for England and/or England and Wales, and are produced approximately on an annual basis.
Full references to the data are at the foot of each web page.
To notify our users when the data on our website has been updated, and to highlight recent press stories, blog posts of interest, and our latest publications, we have an e-newsletter that we send out around 6 times a year. You can sign up to the newsletter. The latest CancerStats publications including the latest CancerStats Newsletter are available on the Latest Reports page and in our Publications section.
There are two ways of publishing mortality statistics - death registrations and death occurrences.
The mortality statistics presented on this web site are death registrations. This means that all deaths from cancer registered in a particular year are included. Occasionally a death may occur at the end of one year but be registered in another year, for example, a death occurring on December 31st 2005 will probably be registered in January 2006. Mortality statistics published by the Office for National Statistics are occurrences of deaths rather than registrations. Therefore there may be some small discrepancies with those published on this web site.
The printed reports are all dated and all of the information in them is valid up to that date. What we want to do with CancerStats online is to update the incidence, mortality and survival data more regularly. This will mean, for example, that the Breast UK CancerStats report contains incidence data for 2000, but the online version is updated to include incidence data for 2001.
Another advantage of the online version of CancerStats is that all the charts and tables can be downloaded into excel and these will also be updated annually.
The information on this section of the website has been adapted from the charity's successful series of CancerStats reports. These reports were designed for use by health professionals.
The information is designed to provide a detailed summary of the data and epidemiological evidence for people who already have a fairly good knowledge of the area. Many of the terms referred to in this section can be found in our glossary.
Of course, the information can be viewed by anyone who is interested, but other sections of Cancer Research UK's web sites might be more relevant and useful. For instance our CancerHelp UK site is written in plain English and is designed to be understood by everyone.
If you would like to reference us as a primary source then please use the following:
Cancer Research UK, followed by the web address in full of the page you want to use, and then the month and year you accessed the site.
Alternatively all pages in this section are fully referenced with the primary sources from which we have collated information.
If you would like to reference the published paper copy of a CancerStats report (downloadable free of charge from the Our Publications section of this website) we suggest this format: Cancer Research UK (year of publication), CancerStats report - Name of report, Cancer Research UK. So, for example, if you were referencing the Kidney Cancer CancerStats report the reference would be: Cancer Research UK (2008). CancerStats report - Kidney Cancer UK, Cancer Research UK.
Mortality may be higher than case numbers because of the way death certification and cancer registration works, and what data is available and when.
For example, if a patient has died from cancer but the official documenting the death on the certificate can’t confirm what type of cancer caused the death, it may be recorded as a non-specific cancer type (for example Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP)). However, on receipt of the death certificate the cancer registries may then be able to identify other information about that patients’ history and determine what type of cancer it was, and update the record regarding their case diagnosis. The data would therefore show a patient recorded as having a known type of cancer for their case data, e.g. being a stomach cancer case in the incidence data, but as a different cancer type in the mortality data, e.g. being a CUP death in the mortality data. This inconsistency will remain because the death certificate cannot be changed and the effect is potentially inflated mortality statistics for non-specific cancers like CUP at the detriment of the mortality statistics for specific cancers.
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team