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Section of Cancer Surveillance

Current Research Topics

As the reference source for global cancer statistics, the Section of Cancer Surveillance (CSU) supports cancer registry development, develops and disseminates global indicators, and conducts a research programme aligned with the evolving cancer and development agendas. The Section’s research areas include the following:

  • Global survival benchmarking:
    • SURVMARK. Provision of up-to-date survival measures, and systematic approaches to understanding the impacts of registry processes and stage.
    • SURVCAN. Global synthesis of comparable survival statistics in low- and middle-income countries, with an emphasis on bilateral collaborations with registries to ensure complete follow-up of patients.
    • SURVPOOL. Provision of evidence on the impact of major risk factors on cancer survival.
  • The societal impact of cancer, beyond traditional measures:
    • Cancer attributable fractions for prevention. Studies quantifying the proportion of cases attributable to risk factors.
    • Gains in (healthy) life expectancy. The assessment of gains in life expectancy through hypothetical elimination of cancer.
    • Prevalence by phase of care. A global update of methods to better identify the needs of cancer patients and attach economic costs.
  • Estimating the current future cancer burden and the impacts of cancer control measures:
    • Meeting global noncommunicable disease (NCD) targets. Using mortality trends to predict future premature deaths from cancer and other NCDs, as well as the contribution of risk factors and prevention strategies in achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goals targets.
    • Dynamic models to predict the long-term future burden under scenarios of roll-out of screening and vaccination programmes.
    • Tobacco control: Impact of prevention policies on the long-term burden of tobacco-related cancers.
  • Cancer in children and adolescents: An extended global programme with major research and funding partners.
  • Social inequalities and cancer: An international research framework with collaborators is being developed; this includes continuing work with the World Indigenous Cancer (WIC) Network.
  • Descriptive economics of cancer: A comprehensive programme is being developed; this includes assessing the economic impact of cancer, working with WHO on a tool for national priority-setting, and developing a costing tool for cancer registries.


In the development and dissemination of global cancer indicators via the Global Cancer Observatory (GCO), some of the key areas of continuing development include:

  • The provision of global public databases.
    • GLOBOCAN 2020. The 2020 global estimates will be incorporated into the Cancer Today subsite of the GCO.
    • Cancer Incidence in Five Continents, Volume XII. The compilation of 5-year incidence datasets of high quality jointly with the International Association of Cancer Registries (IACR) will continue, with the Cancer Over Time subsite of the GCO providing geographical and time trend analyses of the incidence and (WHO) mortality data series, and the IACR website providing the registry-specific data and statistics.
    • Global Childhood Cancer database (GLOBOKID). Based on the International Incidence of Childhood Cancer (IICC) series, national estimates of childhood cancer incidence will be published according to the International Classification of Childhood Cancer and selected diagnostic subgroups.
    • Integrating research findings into the GCO platform. Indicators developed through CSU’s research are being integrated through infographics and interactive tools, accompanied by short excerpts from the research articles.


The Section’s work in supporting cancer registries is being strengthened through the following strategies:

  • Full implementation of the Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development (GICR) model, with resource mobilization efforts intensified under a Global Fund that allows for a continuing expansion of global and regional partners.
  • Scale-up of the IARC Regional Hubs for Cancer Registration to better deliver the targeted actions in selected low- and middle-income countries, including:
    • Target countries as a critical focus for tailored assistance based on the identified requirements, national readiness, and an alignment with the overall GICR goals.
    • Restructure training to widen the use of local experts through the development of the GICRNet and the launch of a GICR Mentorship Programme.
    • Develop new electronic tools and reference works, including online learning modules and standardized slides, with appropriate linkages to the IACR and WHO.



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