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Measuring the Cancer Burden

Without action, the worldwide cancer burden is expected to reach 21 million new diagnoses and 13 million deaths by 2030[1], with the most rapid increases occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Cancer deaths worldwide for 2017 are estimated at over 25 000 per day, of which over two thirds occur in economically developing countries. South Africa is one of these countries. Cancer affects every South African either financially or emotionally in some way.[2]

In South Africa, the National Cancer Registry (NCR) which is kept by the NHLS, has collected information on cancer diagnoses since 1986. The NCR is a pathology-based registry, mainly collecting data of laboratory diagnosed cancers.

Successful advocacy led to the promulgation of the Regulations Relating to Cancer Registration, No. R 380 of 26 April 2011.[4] This regulation establishes the National Cancer Registry and makes provision for reporting by health establishments, healthcare workers and laboratories. It also paves the way for the implementation of Population-Based Cancer registries.

The National Public Health Institute of South Africa (NAPHISA) Bill will provide for the establishment of the National Public Health Institute of South Africa, including divisions dealing with inter alia … (d) Cancer Surveillance…, thus paving the way for the transition of the NCR to NAPHISA. A draft of this bill was published on 11 November 2015[5], followed by a second draft published on 15 March 2017[6]. Following a public briefing by the Dept. of Health and two days of public hearings the Bill is currently under consideration by the National Assembly.[7]

NCR data for 2013 indicates that the Life Time Risk for women developing cancer was 1 in 9, and for men was 1 in 6.

The most common cancers in South Africa




  1. IARC, GLOBOCAN 2012: Predictions for 2030; Online analysis,
  2. Stefan,D. (2015). Why is cancer not a priority in South Africa, SA Medical Journal. Vol 105, No 2 (2015)
  3. NHLS, National Cancer Registry,
  4. Department of Health, R. 380 Regulations relating to cancer registration, [PDF]
  5. Department of Health, National Public Health Institute of South Africa Bill, Draft 11 November 2015, [PDF] available at
  6. Department of Health, National Public Health Institute of South Africa Bill, Draft 15 March 2017, including explanatory text, [PDF] available at
  7. Parliamentary Monitoring Group, National Public Health Institute of South Africa Bill (B16-2017),


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