Open Access Open Badges Research article

Burden of disease due to cancer in Spain

Nerea Fernández de Larrea-Baz1*, Elena Álvarez-Martín2, Consuelo Morant-Ginestar3, Ricard Gènova-Maleras4, Ángel Gil2, Beatriz Pérez-Gómez56 and Gonzalo López-Abente56

Author Affiliations

1 Health Technology Assessment Unit, Laín Entralgo Agency, Madrid Regional Health Council, Calle Gran Vía, 27, 28013 Madrid, Spain

2 Preventive Medicine and Public Health Teaching and Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain

3 Department of Mental Health, Madrid Regional Health Council, Madrid, Spain

4 Directorate General Public Health, Madrid Regional Health Council, Madrid, Spain

5 Environmental and Cancer Epidemiology Unit, National Centre for Epidemiology, Carlos III Institute of Health, Madrid, Spain

6 CIBER en Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Spain

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:42  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-42

Published: 30 January 2009



Burden of disease is a joint measure of mortality and morbidity which makes it easier to compare health problems in which these two components enjoy different degrees of relative importance. The objective of this study is ascertaining the burden of disease due to cancer in Spain via the calculation of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).


DALYs are the sum of years of life lost due to premature mortality and years lost due to disability. World Health Organization methodology and the following sources of data were used: the Mortality Register and Princeton Model Life Table for Years of life lost due to premature mortality and population, incidence estimates (Spanish tumour registries and fitting of generalized linear mixed models), duration (from data of survival in Spain from the EUROCARE-3 study and fitting of Weibull distribution function) and disability (weights published in the literature) for Years lost due to disability.


There were 828,997 DALYs due to cancer (20.5 DALYs/1,000 population), 61% in men. Of the total, 51% corresponded to lung, colorectal, breast, stomach and prostate cancers. Mortality (84% of DALYs) predominated over disability. Subjects aged under 20 years accounted for 1.6% and those aged over 70 years accounted for 30.1% of DALYs.


Lung, colorectal and breast cancers are responsible for the highest number of DALYs in Spain. Even if the burden of disease due to cancer is predominantly caused by mortality, some cancers have a significant weight of disability. Information on 2000 burden of disease due to cancer can be useful to assess how it has evolved over time and the impact of medical advances on it in terms of mortality and disability.