Frequently Asked Questions

>>What is the Cancer Trends Progress Report?

The National Cancer Institute's Cancer Trends Progress Report is an online report that tracks the nation's progress against cancer across the cancer continuum - from prevention through end of life - and compares that progress to Healthy People 2020 goals set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services.

>>Why is the report important?

The Cancer Trends Progress Report is currently the only report of its kind to present the most up-to-date information on trends in the nation's progress against cancer all in one place. Key cancer agencies and groups, including the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other federal agencies, professional groups, and cancer researchers gather the information in this report through a collaborative effort.

>>What is the main message of the report?

The nation has met or is making progress toward many major cancer-related Healthy People 2020 targets. However, we are losing ground in other important areas that demand attention. For more information, visit the Highlights section of the report.

>>What is in the report?

The Cancer Trends Progress Report includes key measures in the areas of prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, life after cancer, and end of life. Progress against cancer is tracked over time and determined by the availability of data. This progress is measured in relation to certain cancer-related Healthy People 2020 targets.

The body of the report includes standardized information for each measure, including background, definition of measure, Healthy People targets, data source, trends and most recent estimates, related cancers, and additional references for each topic area. This information is also summarized in chart form in the Summary Tables section of the report, where special color-coded graphics show whether the trend is going in the desired direction and how the nation's progress compares to the Healthy People targets.

>>How is the information displayed and explained?

Most of the trend graphs were made using Joinpoint regression analysis. This statistical method illustrates real changes in direction instead of merely connecting one dot to another. The report shows whether trends are rising or falling and explains why changes might have occurred. Where data are available, differences in the cancer burden are also illustrated by race and ethnicity, educational attainment, and socioeconomic status. A bulleted summary of recent trends is presented in the Highlights section of the report. Data are downloadable as Excel spreadsheets, and graphs within the report are downloadable as JPEG files, which can be used in PowerPoint slides. The report is also available in PDF format and may be downloaded and printed using the 'Custom Report (PDF)' tool.

>>Where does the data come from?

The data in the Cancer Trends Progress Report come from a variety of sources with different collection techniques and reporting times, so time periods for the data may vary by section. Data is gathered through a collaborative effort by the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other federal agencies, professional groups, and cancer researchers.

>>How are the data selected?

Measures are selected based on scientific evidence and the availability of periodic or longitudinal national - rather than state or local - data collection and analysis efforts. Criteria for selecting measures include the relevance of what is being measured (e.g., impact on cancer, national policy implications); the scientific rigor underlying the measure (e.g., validity, reliability, and explicitness of evidence base); the feasibility of using the measure (e.g., availability of long-term data); and the usability by target audiences (e.g., ease of understanding and applicability). The report includes more measures for prevention than other sections because there are more trends data available in that area. Where possible, 1990 was used as the starting point or baseline against which to measure how well the nation is progressing toward the Healthy People 2020 targets.

>>What data are not in the report?

Not all measures for all relevant areas of cancer progress could be included in this report. In some cases, trend information on a national level is not available. In other cases, there is no reliable information at the time of report publication. Although dramatic advances have been made in the treatment of many cancers (breast and colorectal cancers are two of the featured sites in the report), a national data system for tracking and assessing progress over time is not yet in place. Some measures such as quality of life, while important in assessing the cancer burden, are not included because there simply is no consensus on how best to track those measures in a population at this time. As data and information become available, future editions of the report will include new such measures (e.g., population-level measures like the one in this edition describing state smoke-free air laws).

>>Where can I find state- and county-level cancer data?

The Cancer Trends Progress Report only presents data at the national level. For cancer data at the state and county level or behavioral risk factor data at the state level, go to NCI's State Cancer Profiles website.

>>Who can use the report?

The report can help the public better understand the nature of cancer, as well as the results of current strategies to fight cancer. Researchers, clinicians, and public health providers can focus on the gaps and opportunities identified, and work to make future progress against cancer. Policymakers can use the report to evaluate our progress relative to our investment in cancer research discovery, program development, and service delivery.

>>How often will the report be updated?

The report is updated annually, where data are available. Page notes display the date of the most recent update.

>>What is the rationale for the report?

In 1996, the NCI Director and the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors assembled the Cancer Control Program Review Group (CCPRG) to evaluate the full scope of the institute’s cancer control research program. The NCI Director also established the Surveillance Implementation Group (SIG) to provide advice and recommendations for expanding and enhancing NCI’s cancer surveillance research program. Thus, in the late 1990s the Cancer Trends Progress Report was created based on recommendations from CCPRG and SIG to develop a national progress report on the burden of cancer.

>>How can I get a copy of the report?

The Cancer Trends Progress Report is available online only, however portions of the report or the entire report may be downloaded and printed using the 'Custom Report (PDF)' tool. Archived reports from previous releases since 2001 are available on the Recent Updates and Archive page.

>>Where can more information on cancer be found?

>>Where should I direct my questions or comments about the Cancer Trends Progress Report?

Send questions to Progress Report Help.