Cancer Surveillance System

SEER Program

The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program was established in 1973 as an outgrowth of the National Cancer Act, and has provided high quality information on cancer for the nation for almost 37 years. Some of the many strengths of the SEER program include:

  • The SEER registries collect data on cancer incidence, treatment and survival. Such information collected at the population level is critical to conduct epidemiologic studies designed to a) determine causes of human cancer, b) identify strategies by which cancer incidence and mortality can be reduced, and c) improve our understanding of basic mechanisms that lead to the occurrence and progression of cancer.
  • The data collected by SEER are of high quality. Extensive efforts have been made since the SEER program's inception to ensure that data are collected on a very high proportion of all cases that develop cancer in the areas covered by the SEER registries, and that data on all cancer patients are of the highest quality. Throughout the world, meeting the "SEER-standard" is used as a measure of the quality of a cancer registry.
  • The data from all SEER sites are collected and coded using standardized definitions for reportability, and for site and histology codes as well as extent of disease.
  • The SEER program currently covers nearly 26% of the U.S. population. Because of this large sample size, and the uniform, high quality data collected, data from all SEER sites can be pooled to provide stable and accurate estimates of cancer incidence and survival rates for the nation.
  • The SEER program is a long-term program. Data on almost 34 years of cancer incidence and survival are available. This enhances monitoring of temporal trends in incidence and survival rates for the nation. The value of long-term incidence data is enhanced with each passing year, as the ability to perform cohort analyses of time trends becomes greater.
  • The SEER program provides leadership for cancer registration in the rest of the nation and the world. Innovations in registration techniques that have been developed in SEER registries serve as vanguard efforts for other registries to follow.
  • The SEER registries are operated, in most instances, in connection with strong epidemiologic research units. To be of value, data that are collected must be analyzed appropriately, and interpreted thoughtfully by knowledgeable individuals. In addition, epidemiologic expertise is needed to plan and conduct ancillary studies that utilize the registry as a casefinding mechanism and source of additional data that are not routinely collected by registry personnel on all cancer patients. The SEER registries have been utilized for many epidemiologic studies, which have contributed substantially to our knowledge about the causes of cancer, cancer care, and the sequelae of cancer treatment. SEER has also provided opportunities for training researchers in the uses of data on cancer incidence, treatment and survival.