The information generated by PBCRs can be used for disease control in different areas, from epidemiological research or primary and secondary prevention to health planning and patient care.
Comparison between observed incidence rates in several Cancer Registries will highlight differences in cancer risk among populations from different geographical areas, and taking that evidence as a starting point it will be possible to formulate etiological hypothesis based on differences or similarities in population characteristics or risk factors.
But a definition of ‘risk group’ is not only based on geographic differences, but also on criteria such as age (some cancers like retinoblastoma being more common in children), sex (laryngeal cancer occurs almost exclusively in men), ethnicity, social group, etc.
Time trends in cancer incidence will help monitor the effects of prevention, primary (change in lifestyles, etc.) as well as secondary (screening programs).
Cancer registries play also a main role in relation to cohort studies, given the possibility of performing cross-database analyses of subjects in the cohort and the cancer registry, which allows evaluating the risk those subjects with a particular characteristic (occupational exposure, smoking habits, diet ...) run of developing a certain type of cancer during follow-up.
Planning and monitoring healthcare
Information on the number of cancer cases and their characteristics (age, sex, type of cancer, etc.) is important to plan and provide the necessary resources for an adequate health care.
A more detailed knowledge of clinical aspects such as stage of disease at diagnosis or treatment received may show differences in patients’ access to health services, disparities that are based on age, sex, social group or area of residence.
To know the survival rate of cancer patients living in the area covered by the registry contributes indirectly to assess quality of care and raises questions about the observed differences in survival rates across or within countries.
Similarly, registries play a key role in the evaluation of cancer screening programs. In their early stages, cancer registries can contribute to manage these programs by providing information on people who have already developed cancer or died of it. Throughout the program registries can provide data on interval cancers, changes in stage at diagnosis and time trends in incidence and mortality.
Finally, PBCRs can be an important resource for research and teaching, that is why it could be claimed that PBCRs’ basic function is to determine the incidence of cancer. However, its potential value is much higher, although it demands well trained professionals involved in the registry and adequate resources in order to be properly developed.