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Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) link data on disease occurrence to health outcomes, and they are a useful aid in establishing country-specific agendas regarding cancer control. The variables required to compute DALYs are however multiple and not readily available in many countries. We propose a methodology that derives global DALYs and validate variables and DALYs based on data from various cancer registries.
We estimated DALYs for four countries (Norway, Bulgaria, India and Uganda) within each category of the human development index (HDI). The following sources (indicators) were used: Globocan2008 (incidence and mortality), various cancer registries (proportion cured, proportion treated and duration of disease), treatment guidelines (duration of treatment), specific burden of disease studies (sequelae and disability weights), alongside expert opinion. We obtained country-specific population estimates and identified resource levels using the HDI, DALYs are computed as the sum of years of life lost and years lived with disabilities.
Using mortality:incidence ratios to estimate country-specific survival, and by applying the human development index we derived country-specific estimates of the proportion cured and the proportion treated. The fit between the estimates and observed data from the cancer registries was relatively good. The final DALY estimates were similar to those computed using observed values in Norway, and in WHO’s earlier global burden of disease study. Marked cross-country differences in the patterns of DALYs by cancer sites were observed. In Norway and Bulgaria, breast, colorectal, prostate and lung cancer were the main contributors to DALYs, representing 54% and 45%, respectively, of the totals. These cancers contributed only 27% and 18%, respectively, of total DALYs in India and Uganda.
Our approach resulted in a series of variables that can be used to estimate country-specific DALYs, enabling global estimates of DALYs and international comparisons that support priorities in cancer control.