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Publication, Part of

Cancer Registration Statistics, England 2019

National statistics

National Statistics

Current Chapter

Cancer registration data, quality and methodology

Cancer registration data, quality and methodology

Data collection

Cancer registration is the systematic collection of data about cancer and tumour diagnoses. In England, this data collection is managed by the National Disease Registration Service (NDRS) in NHS Digital. Every year, the NDRS collects information on over 300,000 cases of cancer, including patient details, as well as detailed data about the type of cancer, how advanced it is and the treatment the patient receives.

Data are submitted to the NDRS from a range of healthcare providers and other services (for example, histopathology and haematology services, radiotherapy departments, screening services and general practitioners). The National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS), which is a part of NDRS, then uses these multiple sources to build a comprehensive picture of cancer incidence in England, as well as other detailed analysis and interpretations covering the entire cancer pathway on all patients in England. For more information, please see the Data Resource Profile for NCRAS.

The quality and accuracy of the data are validated and processed to ensure that they are consistent and to a high standard. Once all the expected records for any one incidence year have been received and validated, NCRAS takes a snapshot of the dataset, which provides a single, consistent source of cancer registrations. Cancer incidence for 2019 was created from a snapshot taken in September 2021, for the period January to December 2019. The snapshot will vary year on year due to the dynamic nature of registration data:

  • new cancer cases will be registered which can include new “late” registrations after cancer incidence has been published for that year
  • cancer records can be amended, for example the site code of a record can be modified when more accurate information becomes available
  • cancer records can be cancelled (although this is uncommon)
  • A less common reason for changes to historical data is a patient exercising their right to opt-out of the cancer registration datasets.

Historic data

The gap between the diagnosis counts that were first published for a registration year and the most recent cancer incidence figures has varied considerably over time. Over the 44-year period reported, differences between what has previously been published and the current number of registrations (refreshed in 2021) for each year average less than 5%.

Figure 12: Number of neoplasm registrations previously published and currently National Cancer Registry database, England, 1971 to 2018

Data quality and methodology

The figures for numbers and rates of “all cancer” in this release refer to all malignant neoplasms which include International Classification of Diseases: ICD-10 codes of C00 to C97, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer (ICD-10 C44). Although common, the available figures for NMSC are known to be underestimates and unreliable for comparison purposes. This is because previously there has been variation in the policies and practices for the recording of NMSC. However, for completeness, rates and counts of NMSC have been included in the data tables.

Any regional differences in benign, uncertain and unknown neoplasms should be interpreted with caution. There is known historical variation in the way these tumours were recorded across the country.

The last 5 years of cancer registrations are more likely to be subject to change as data are refreshed in future releases. As most changes will occur within the latest 5 years, any commentary based on the last few years is less reliable. Commentaries relating to less than the last 5 years are meant as current observations of the data and should not be taken as long-term estimates on cancer trends.

The Cancer registration statistics Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data
  • uses and users of the data
  • how the output was created
  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data.

Last edited: 14 January 2022 9:55 am