On December 23, 1971, 50 years ago this month, President Richard Nixon signed into law the National Cancer Act, heralding our National Cancer Program and the “War on Cancer.” As a result of this legislation, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) was strengthened, NCI-designated cancer centers were created, the cancer clinical trials network was expanded and opportunities for cancer research were intensified. In the registry world, the NCI SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results) Program was launched.
In 1970, there were 625,000 new cases of cancer in the United States and three million survivors. The five-year survival rate was 49%. In 2021, we have seen the largest single decline in annual cancer mortality rates in the United States! In 2030, 22.1 million cancer survivors are predicted and a five-year survival rate greater than 70% is anticipated! We have come a long way in the last 50 years.
You, who are the archivists of cancer data at your institutions, should be immensely proud since you have added significantly to these successes. The impact of our cancer registries and registrars, although frequently not highlighted, has been one of the main reasons for these accomplishments over these 50 years. The melding of modern technology to create and enhance our cancer registries and the unlimited human factors brought to the registry profession will continue to add to the incredible legacy of the National Cancer Act begun 50 years ago.