Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER

Cancer Incidence Rate

  • Updated: 12/04/2009

A cancer incidence rate is the number of new cancers of a specific site/type occurring in a specified population during a year, usually expressed as the number of cancers per 100,000 population at risk. That is,

Incidence Rate = (New Cancers / Population) × 100,000

The numerator of the incidence rate is the number of new cancers; the denominator is the size of the population. The number of new cancers may include multiple primary cancers occurring in one patient. The primary site reported is the site of origin and not the metastatic site. In general, the incidence rate would not include recurrences. The population used depends on the rate to be calculated. For cancer sites that occur in only one sex, the sex-specific population (e.g., females for cervical cancer) is used.

An age-adjusted rate is a weighted average of the age-specific rates, where the weights are the proportions of persons in the corresponding age groups of a standard population. The potential confounding effect of age is reduced when comparing age-adjusted rates computed using the same standard population.

NCI has a variety of published reports and research tools for finding incidence statistics.

For definitions of statistics-related terms, see the Glossary of Statistical Terms.