GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Incidence
Incidence is the number of new cases arising in a given period in a specified population. This information is collected routinely by cancer registries. It can be expressed as an absolute number of cases per year or as a rate per 100,000 persons per year (see Crude rate and ASR below). The rate provides an approximation of the average risk of developing a cancer.

Mortality
Mortality is the number of deaths occurring in a given period in a specified population. It can be expressed as an absolute number of deaths per year or as a rate per 100,000 persons per year.

Prevalence
The prevalence of a particular cancer can be defined as the number of persons in a defined population who have been diagnosed with that type of cancer, and who are still alive at the end of a given year, the survivors. Complete prevalence represents the number of persons alive at certain point in time who previously had a diagnosis of the disease, regardless of how long ago the diagnosis was, or if the patient is still under treatment or is considered cured. Partial prevalence , which limits the number of patients to those diagnosed during a fixed time in the past, is a particularly useful measure of cancer burden.
Prevalence of cancers based on cases diagnosed within one, three and five are presented as they are likely to be of relevance to the different stages of cancer therapy, namely, initial treatment (one year), clinical follow-up (three years) and cure (five years). Patients who are still alive five years after diagnosis are usually considered cured since the death rates of such patients are similar to those in the general population. There are exceptions, particularly breast cancer.
Prevalence is presented for the adult population only (ages 15 and over), and is available both as numbers and as proportions per 100,000 persons.

Crude rate
Data on incidence or mortality are often presented as rates. For a specific tumour and population, a crude rate is calculated simply by dividing the number of new cancers or cancer deaths observed during a given time period by the corresponding number of person years in the population at risk. For cancer, the result is usually expressed as an annual rate per 100,000 persons at risk.

ASR (age-standardised rate)
An age-standardised rate (ASR) is a summary measure of the rate that a population would have if it had a standard age structure. Standardization is necessary when comparing several populations that differ with respect to age because age has a powerful influence on the risk of cancer. The ASR is a weighted mean of the age-specific rates; the weights are taken from population distribution of the standard population. The most frequently used standard population is the World Standard Population. The calculated incidence or mortality rate is then called age-standardised incidence or mortality rate (world). It is also expressed per 100,000. The world standard population used in GLOBOCAN is as proposed by Segi [1] and modified by Doll and al. [2]. The age-standardised rate is calculated using 10 age-groups (0-14;15-39;40-44;45-49;50-54;55-59;60-64;65-69;70-74;75+). The result may be slightly different from that computed using the same data categorised using the traditional 5 year age bands.

Cumulative risk
Cumulative incidence/mortality is the probability or risk of individuals getting/dying from the disease during a specified period. For cancer, it is expressed as the number of new born children (out of 100) who would be expected to develop/die from a particular cancer before the age of 75 if they had the rates of cancer observed in the period in the absence of competing causes.

  1. Segi, M. (1960) Cancer Mortality for Selected Sites in 24 Countries (1950–57). Department of Public Health, Tohoku University of Medicine, Sendai, Japan.
  2. Doll, R., Payne, P., Waterhouse, J.A.H. eds (1966). Cancer Incidence in Five Continents, Vol. I. Union Internationale Contre le Cancer, Geneva.