Metastases are the main cause of morbidity and mortality from solid tumors. Surprisingly, population-based cancer registries in various countries, including the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program in the United States, only capture data on individuals diagnosed with cancers that are metastatic at diagnosis (M1). Metastatic recurrences of previously diagnosed, initially nonmetastatic tumors are missed. Devasia and colleagues specify an illness-death model for chronic disease and estimate that in prostate cancer, which has a large pool of primary disease that may or may not progress to metastases, about half of all metastatic cancers arise as recurrences from initially nonmetastatic disease. Capturing all incident metastatic cancer cases across all tumor types in population-based cancer registries, not only based on initial stage at diagnosis, would be critical to better understand the disparities in metastatic disease burden and the effectiveness of primary prevention, screening, and therapies for primary and metastatic disease.

See related article by Devasia et al., p. 659

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