The Irish National Cancer Registry?

What is the Irish National Cancer Registry?

Out of every four deaths in Ireland in 1998, one was due to cancer. With death rates this high, it is clear that we need to combat the incidence of cancer in every way possible. Having accurate information about what types of cancer are on the rise, and about which sections of the community are falling ill with cancer, helps the health service at large to combat the illness more effectively.

Funded by the Department of Health, the Irish National Cancer Registry was set up in 1991 and began recording cancer cases all over Ireland in 1994. It has a staff of twenty-one, seven in its headquarters in Cork and 14 based in hospitals around the country. Staff collect information on cancer cases from all hospitals and other health care facilities in their area. They record this information on laptop computers and send it electronically to Cork where it is checked and analysed.

The National Cancer Registry keeps a record of the development of every single tumour that comes to its attention. With tumour registration officers working in hospitals up and down the country, the Registry can maintain a record on every medically detected tumour in Ireland. The Registry publishes a report once a year, though it takes over two years to analyse all the information for any given year. The report for 1997 has recently been published.

What does the Registry do?

The Registry maintains a database of information on cancer in Ireland, especially in terms of how many cases there are and how widespread it is among the population. Most developed countries have a cancer registry. Usually publicly owned, cancer registries are non-profit organisations, staffed by medical professionals, who

  • collect comprehensive information on all new cases of cancer occurring in a defined population.
  • often collect information on cancer deaths in the same population.
  • store this information securely and permanently.
  • analyse the information and produces regular reports.

Under Irish statute law, the National Cancer Registry is expected to identify, collect, classify, record, store and analyse information relating to the incidence and prevalence of cancer and related tumours in Ireland.

How is the information on the Registry used?

Cancer registry information is not of much value if just stored away, so one of the main functions of the registry is to make as much use of the data as possible. Among the many uses of the data are:

  • research to discover the causes of cancer, by looking at reasons for difference in risk for different groups 
  • using information from the registry in education and information programmes 
  • examining the effectiveness of screening programme 
  • identifying groups of people at greater risk and who should be frequently checked for cancer.
  • looking at the effectiveness of different types of treatment.
  • checking if every patient has the same access to treatment.
  • helping doctors assess their own performance.

Cancer patients need not be concerned that information on their illness is made generally available, because that is not the case. All personal details are kept out of the Registry's public reports, and it is only the raw data that researchers are interested in analysing.

It is important for the Registry to record every cancer case in the country if their information is to be truly reliable. Without the co-operation of patients, doctors and medical institutions, the Registry would undoubtedly miss some cases. By keeping the Registry accurately maintained, we will know if:

  • certain cancers are becoming more or less frequent.
  • the risk of developing cancer is different for people living in different areas, or working in different jobs.
  • different types of medical care can influence survival from cancer.
  • cancer screening programmes are really working.

Where can the Registry be contacted?

The Registry's head office is at Elm Court, Boreenmanna Road, Cork. You can write to them there, or phone them at (021) 318014. Their fax number is (021) 318016. The Registry email address is:

and a website,, where you can access the Registry' reports for 1994 through to 1997 and find out more about their work.


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