News Release
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   September 10, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg
Dennis McGowan


Department Releases Five-Year Cancer Incidence Report
Rates Generally Rose through 1997 and 1998, Declined in 1999
Report Illustrates Effects on Age-Adjusted Rates Using New Population Standard

TRENTON -A New Jersey State Cancer Registry preliminary data released today show that overall cancer incidence rates rose through 1997 and 1998, before declining in 1999, in some cases to their lowest levels in five years, said Acting Health and Senior Services Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., M.D.

Cancer Incidence in New Jersey 1995-1999 includes data collected by the registry on 214,971 cases of invasive cancer diagnosed during the report years, including 42,476 cases diagnosed in 1999. The report may also be viewed on the department's website at

Among men, lower rates of lung, laryngeal and colon cancers were found in 1999, and lower rates of invasive breast cancer, as well as colon, cervical and ovarian cancers were recorded for women over the previous year. Overall, age-adjusted cancer incidence rates increased for males through 1997, and for females for the full five-year period. Overall, cancer incidence rates for black males continue to decrease steadily, though they continue to have higher rates than for white males and females, and black females.

The report also contains a comparison of the 1994-1998 cancer incidence data for New Jersey and the U.S. that reveals slightly lower lung cancer rates for all men in New Jersey during this five-year time period. New Jersey's rates are generally higher than the nation, although similar to those in the Northeast region of the country.

"We need to continue focusing our efforts on preventing cancer, and on detecting it in its earliest stages when treatment outcomes are better," said Dr. DiFerdinando. "Screening programs for breast and cervical cancers have helped detect more cases early and boost treatment successes."

This is the department's first report that uses the change from the 1970 to the 2000 U.S. Population Standard for recording age-adjusted disease incidence rates and illustrates the effects of this new calculation method on the 1999 preliminary cancer rate totals. While the new calculations do not indicate a change in cancer incidence or occurrence, they do produce standardized cancer rates that appear to be about 20% higher than previously reported.

Until now, various federal and state agencies have calculated disease rates using different population standards, including the 1940 and 1970 populations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is now requiring that, beginning with the 1999 reporting year, all health data be age-adjusted using the 2000 U.S. Population Standard. As people today are living longer and cancer occurs more frequently in older people, there are more cancer cases now than before.

Statisticians use the technique of age-adjustment in calculating rates of disease to permit comparison across different geographic areas or populations. The technique takes the age structure of underlying populations into account when reporting rates. The adjusted rates function as an index so that cancer and other disease rates can be compared despite differences in the age of the population.

"Calculations of disease rates based on the 2000 Population Standard will provide a more realistic and consistent standard of measurement for health planners, researchers and the public," said Assistant Commissioner and State Epidemiologist Eddy Bresnitz, M.D.

Dr. Bresnitz said the new standard affects cancer rates for specific sites to different degrees. While incidence rates of lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer common in younger people, appears to be lower with the new standard, rates for cancers of the prostate, rectum, breast, and pancreas - typically diagnosed in older people - appear to rise with the 2000 Population Standard.

Today's report also uses the traditional 1970 U.S. Population Standard to show age-adjusted cancer incidence rates and rate trends for the years 1995 to 1999.

New Jersey's Cancer Registry is considered one of the most complete and up-to-date registries in the nation. The information collected is used by cancer researchers, and is also released to the public in periodic reports. The registry was recently awarded a contract by the National Cancer Institute to be a Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Registry, which produces data on the occurrences of major cancers among several racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

Among department initiatives to improve cancer prevention, early detection and treatment outcomes, are the Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program and the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection Program (NJCEED), through which underserved and uninsured women have received more than 19,000 screenings for breast cancer and 16,000 screening exams for cervical cancer. A Governor's Task Force is also developing a comprehensive cancer prevention and control plan for New Jersey to address ways to reduce cancer incidence and mortality.

To obtain a copy of the report, call 609-588-3500. (Press should call the Office of Communications at 609-984-7160).

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