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Potential Years of Life Lost

Potential Years of Life Lost

The number of potential years of life lost is a population-based mortality indicator that estimates the excess number of years a person could have lived had they not died prematurely of cancer. It is an alternative to mortality rates for measuring the cancer burden in a population and gives more weight to cancers that occur in young people.

There are two main methods for calculating the number of years of life lost. The first method uses the difference between the age of death and a fixed life expectancy (usually 75 years).  Individuals who die after the fixed age do not contribute to the total years of life lost. The second method uses standard life tables to estimate the number of years of life expected to be remaining at each age up to age 100, thereby providing a more robust estimate.

The Texas Cancer Registry used the second method to calculate the total number of potential years of life lost due to cancer deaths in Texas between 2012 and 2016. To determine the number of years of life expected, TCR used the United States Life Tables, 2014 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics. These tables were selected because 2014 is the midpoint for the selected time period (2012-2016). The number of expected years of life lost to each cancer death was calculated for each sex, race, and Hispanic ethnicity. For example, in 2014 a 50-year-old Hispanic male was expected to live an additional 32.1 years; therefore, if he were to die at age 50, the years of life lost would be 32.1 years.

To calculate the total number of years of life lost, the number of years of life lost from each cancer death were added together. The total number of years of life lost was then divided by the number of deaths to give the average number of years of life lost per cancer death. Data are presented by cancer site, sex, and race/Hispanic ethnicity.

Some cancer sites have a large overall number of years of life lost due to the relatively large number of people who die from that particular cancer. For example, lung cancer led to a total of 627,167.2 years of life lost, averaging 13.7 years of life lost for each case. Alternatively, some cancer sites have a high average number of years of life lost per cancer death often due to the younger age at which the cancer typically occurs. For example, cervical cancer led to a total of 51,958.3 years of life lost, averaging 27.4 years of life lost for each case.


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Last updated July 10, 2019