In 1973, program managers at the National Institutes of Health began working with scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assemble a network of data registries for monitoring the nation’s progress in its newly announced “war on cancer.” Data from the registries, the agencies reasoned, could be compiled into a commonly accessible database to track the incidence, mortality, stage, treatment, and survival of patients affected by the disease. Titled the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) system, this ambitious information system has provided epidemiologists and public health planners with the data needed to understand how the burden of cancer has been distributed across individuals throughout the population (Hankey, Ries, & Edwards, 1999). The SEER system has given epidemiologists insight into how environmental influences may affect incidence of the disease, and has provided health system researchers with the monitoring capabilities necessary to track efficacy of cancer control efforts (Edwards et al., 2005; Wingo et al., 2005).

After three decades of monitoring and analysis, population scientists using the national registry have at last been able to detect a reversal in the century-long trend of increasing cancer burden. Age-adjusted mortality rates attributable to cancer have been dropping steadily since the early 1990s, with substantive progress in areas such as lung cancer reflecting success in public health efforts aimed at controlling precipitants to the disease (e.g., exposure to tobacco smoke) (Hiatt & Rimer, 1999; Weir et al., 2003). In 2006, reports indicated the possibility of a first-ever decrease in the absolute number of cancer-related deaths (Cancer facts and figures, 2006).


Geographic Information System Health Disparity California Health Interview Survey Eliminate Health Disparity Informatics Infrastructure 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bradford W. Hesse
    • 1
  1. 1.National Cancer InstituteBethesdaUSA

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