About 2,000 patients with primary CNS cancers, as defined by the ICD-O, were registered in four adjacent cancer registries in South and East Netherlands in 1989–1994, covering a population of more than 5 million people. About 85% of the patients were registered through pathological laboratories, concentrated in four centers for neurosurgery. Patients with a clinical-radiological diagnosis only (about 50% in the age-group of 75 years and older) were mainly identified through medical records of hospitalized patients. World-standardized incidence rates of 6.5 and 4.4 per 100,000 person-years for males and females, respectively, were similar to those reported in other European cancer registries. Eighty-five percent of histologically verified primary CNS cancers were of glial origin, 6% were lymphomas and 4% embryonal tumors. Gliomas were mainly of astrocytic (about 85%) and oligodendroglial or mixed type (about 10%). Without additional review most astrocytic tumors could be classified into high-grade (70–75%) and low-grade astrocytomas (20–25%). Different grading systems were used for gliomas, but the dichotomy of astrocytomas according to differentiation grade seemed to correspond well with the definition of the WHO. Age-specific incidence rates for low-grade astrocytomas were remarkably constant. The incidence of high-grade astrocytomas increased sharply with age and declined after the age of 70, whereas the incidence of clinically diagnosed tumors continued to increase. Male/females-ratios were relatively high for these tumor types (1.6–1.7). We conclude that the registration of primary CNS cancers in the Netherlands may be almost complete and valid for gliomas, embryonal tumors and lymphomas.

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