Data from population-based cancer registries are often used to compare cancer survival between countries or regions. The ICBP SURVMARK-2 study is an international partnership aiming to quantify and explore the reasons behind survival differences across high-income countries. However, the magnitude and relevance of differences in cancer survival between countries have been questioned, as it is argued that observed survival variations may be explained, at least in part, by differences in cancer registration practice, completeness and the availability and quality of the respective data sources.
As part of the ICBP SURVMARK-2 study we used a simulation approach to better understand how differences in completeness, the characteristics of those missed and inclusion of cases found from death certificates can impact on cancer survival estimates.
Results: Bias in 1- and 5-year net survival estimates for 216 simulated scenarios is presented. Out of the investigated factors, the proportion of cases not registered through sources other than death certificates, had the largest impact on survival estimates.
Conclusion: Our results show that the differences in registration practice between participating countries could in our most extreme scenarios explain only a part of the largest observed differences in cancer survival.