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Med Care. 2002 Aug;40(8 Suppl):IV-3-18.

Overview of the SEER-Medicare data: content, research applications, and generalizability to the United States elderly population.

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  • 1Applied Research Program, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-7344, USA.



The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare-linked database combines clinical information from population-based cancer registries with claims information from the Medicare program. The use of this database to study cancer screening, treatment, outcomes, and costs has grown in recent years.


This paper provides an overview of the SEER-Medicare files for investigators interested in using these data for epidemiologic and health services research. The overview includes a description of the linkage of SEER and Medicare data and the files included as part of SEER-Medicare. The paper also describes the types of research projects that have been undertaken using the SEER-Medicare data. The overview concludes with a comparison of selected characteristics of elderly persons residing in the SEER areas to the US total aged.


The paper identifies a number of potential uses of the SEER-Medicare data. The comparison of the elderly population in SEER areas to the US total shows that in the SEER areas there are a lower percentage of white persons and individuals living in poverty, and a higher percentage of urban-dwellers than the US total. Elderly persons in the SEER regions also have higher rates of HMO enrollment and lower rates of cancer mortality.


The SEER-Medicare data are a unique resource that can be used for a variety of health services research projects. Although there are some differences between the elderly residing in the SEER areas and the US total, the SEER-Medicare data offer a large population-based cohort that can be used to longitudinally track care for persons over the course of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up.

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