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National Cancer Database (NCDB)

    • Owner / manager
    • Study and sample characteristics
    • Major foci
    • Special supplements and resources
    • Links to other datasets
    • Papers published
    • Dataset accessibility and cost
    • Help desk


Key Web Links

Home page:

General description:

Dataset Summary 

The NCDB compiles cancer registry data from over 1,400 cancer programs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, capturing approximately 75% of newly diagnosed cancers in these areas.   Started in 1989 and continuing through the present, NCDB captures information on patient characteristics, tumor staging, tumor histology, type of first treatment, disease recurrence, and survival, all collected from participating institutions using standardized coding definitions.  The database is commonly used for quality improvement and to create regional and state benchmarks for cancer care, as well as to pursue investigator-initiated research questions.   In addition to research data files, the NCDB website allows the creation of customizable benchmark reports to quickly review available data.  Data are available at no cost to members of the American College of Surgeons through an application process.  A public access database may also be available in the near future.

Expert Comments

The NCDB can be useful for examining cancer diagnosis and primary treatment. The main limitation is that the cohorts are not population-based, but rather identified from the hospitals where they present for diagnosis and/or treatment.  The advantage, however, over other registry data (e.g., SEER) is that it captures about 75% of all incident cancers in the U.S., and includes more complete information on some treatments (e.g., chemotherapy, although data on chemotherapy have not been validated).

Dataset Details 

Dataset Owner

Commission on Cancer and the American Cancer Society

Study and Sample Characteristics

Complete sample of cancer registry data from over 1,400 hospital-based tumor registries in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, accounting for approximately 75% of new cancer diagnoses.  Data collection began in 1998 and continues.  To date, the dataset contains over 20 million records.

 Major Foci

Data available through NCDB includes:
• patient characteristics (including age, sex, marital status, insurance status, area-level measures of income/education)
• tumor characteristics (histology, stage, grade, hormone status)
• hospital
• type of first treatment
• survival

Papers Published

Click here for a PubMed search for articles using this dataset.

Examples of papers published using NCDB include:

Small bowel cancer in the United States: changes in epidemiology, treatment, and survival over the last 20 years.
Bilimoria KY, Bentrem DJ, Wayne JD, Ko CY, Bennett CL, Talamonti MS.
Ann Surg. 2009 Jan;249(1):63-71.

Regional variation in breast cancer treatment throughout the United States.
Sariego J.
Am J Surg. 2008 Oct;196(4):572-4.

Association of insurance with cancer care utilization and outcomes.
Ward E, Halpern M, Schrag N, Cokkinides V, DeSantis C, Bandi P, Siegel R, Stewart A, Jemal A.
A Cancer J Clin. 2008 Jan-Feb;58(1):9-31. Epub 2007 Dec 20.

Adjuvant chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer: implications of race/ethnicity, age, and differentiation.
Jessup JM, Stewart A, Greene FL, Minsky BD.
JAMA. 2005 Dec 7;294(21):2703-11.

National failure to operate on early stage pancreatic cancer.
Bilimoria KY, Bentrem DJ, Ko CY, Stewart AK, Winchester DP, Talamonti MS.
Ann Surg. 2007 Aug;246(2):173-80.

Dataset Accessibility and Cost

At present, data are not publicly available.  Members of the American College of Surgeons have access to the data, and might be willing to collaborate in studies with nonmembers.  The American College of Surgeons is hoping to make available a public use database for non-member researchers, although they have been working on details and procedures for some time and are not certain when this will be available.

For additional information, contact Sue Slater at or(312)-202-5464

Help Desk

For help, contact, or call (312) 202-5085 and ask for NCDB.

Request a consultation (SGIM members only)
Members of SGIM may request a one-time consultation with an expert in this dataset, for example, to explore research ideas or to troubleshoot a problem or vexing question. Please click here for guidelines and the request process.