Skip to Main Content

Cancer Registrars


Cancer registries in their present form in the United States were first developed in the early 1900s. However, the concept of tracking medical history dates back more than 500 years. Evidence exists of case histories by physicians in Ancient Greece, and “Bills of Mortality” published in 16th century England which recorded deaths by consumption, the plague, and other diseases in order to track deaths in various parts of the country. 

Over the years, the recording and compiling of information with respect to disease became more formalized. Ultimately the recording of data has been used to statistically analyze and calculate incidence of cancer in certain areas, success of treatments, and survival rates. In 1926, the Yale-New Haven Hospital created the first hospital cancer registry, followed in the next twenty years by the development of cancer registries in many major hospitals. By 1956, approval of hospital based cancer programs by the American College of Surgeons required cancer registries. State registries began developing in the 1920s and 1930s (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware) and the first National Cancer Registry was started in the 1970s by the National Cancer Institute.

The role of the cancer registrar developed as an integral part of the registry process. As the need to collect, compile and track data become critical to maintaining registries, so too did the need to train individuals to search out cancer patients, obtain records of symptoms and treatment, appropriately record information, and obtain lifetime follow up.