Cancer stage at diagnosis: Comparison of insurance status in SEER to the Department of Defense Cancer Registry

James T. Flanary, Jie Lin, Craig D. Shriver, Kangmin Zhu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Military individuals, retirees, and their families have free care or minimal out-of-pocket costs in the US military health system (MHS). In contrast, out-of-pocket costs in the US general population vary substantially. This study compared cancer patients with various insurance types in the general population to those in the MHS in cancer stage at diagnosis. Methods: Patients were identified from the US Department of Defense's (DoD) Automated Central Tumor Registry (ACTUR) and the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program. Tumor stage at diagnosis of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers during 2007–2013 was compared between ACTUR and SEER insurance categories of “insured,” “insured-no specifics,” “any Medicaid,” and “uninsured,” A multivariable logistic regression analysis estimated the odds ratio (OR) of late stage (Stages III and IV) versus early stage (Stages I and II) cancers comparing SEER insurance status to ACTUR. Results: There were 18,440 eligible patients identified from ACTUR and 831,959 patients identified from SEER. For all cancer types, patients in the SEER-insured/no specifics, Medicaid, and uninsured groups had significantly greater likelihood of late stage diagnosis compared to ACTUR patients. The adjusted ORs were greatest among uninsured and Medicaid patients. The SEER-insured group also had a significantly higher odds of advanced stage disease than ACTUR patients for prostate cancer and lung cancer. Conclusion: Patients in the MHS with universal access to healthcare were diagnosed at an earlier stage than those in the general population. This difference was most evident compared to Medicaid and uninsured groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20989-21000
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Medicine
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • SEER program
  • United States/epidemiology
  • early detection of cancer
  • military personnel/statistics and numerical data
  • neoplasm staging


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