Population cancer registries (PCR) play an essential role in cancer control, as they carry out a continuous and systematic work of collecting, analyzing and interpreting data on the characteristics of cancer patients in the areas in which are located. They contain clinical and pathological data of the tumor and data on the follow-up of patients, to know their survival.

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The first initiatives to know the magnitude of cancer date back to the beginning of the 20th century in several European countries. In 1900, in Germany a survey was conducted of doctors trying to register all cancer patients under medical treatment. That same approach was used again between 1902 and 1908 in several European countries, including Spain. In America, the first two registries were established in Saskatchewan (Canada) in 1932 and Connecticut (USA) in 1935. The first European cancer registry that has maintained its continuity up to the present time, was created in 1942 in Denmark, with national coverage.

In Spain, the first two population cancer registries to be created were the Zaragoza Cancer Registry, created in 1960, and the Navarra Registry, created in 1970. In 1976 the National Cancer Registry Plan was launched Population, adding to the existing registers four more newly created ones: Asturias, Tenerife, Seville and Valladolid, although not all of them maintained their continuity throughout these years.

Currently, there are 16 PCR's, 15 of them covering the entire population and one of them the child population (Albacete, Asturias, Canarias, Castellón, Castilla y León, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Euskadi, Girona, Granada, La Rioja, Mallorca, Murcia, Navarra, Tarragona and the monographic registry of childhood tumors of the Valencian Community).

Data from global registries are included in the reference publication Cancer Incidence in Five Continents which is periodically published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Together, they cover an approximate population of 10 million, which represents 27% of the Spanish population. This situation is similar to that of southern European countries, close in geography and culture such as France and Italy, whose records, in both countries, cover approximately 20% of the total population, being generally located in population areas close to one million population.