BACKGROUND:A requirement for consent for inclusion may bias the results from a clinical registry. This study gives a direct measure of this bias, based on a population-based clinical breast cancer registry where the requirement for consent was removed after further ethical review and data could be re-analysed. METHODS:In Auckland, New Zealand, the population-based clinical breast cancer registry required written patient consent for inclusion from 2000-2012. A subsequent ethical review removed this requirement and allowed an analysis of consented and non-consented patients. Kaplan-Meier survival to 10 years (mean follow-up 5.1 years, maximum 13.9 years), demographic and clinical characteristics were compared. Of 9244 women with invasive cancer, 926 (10.4%) were not consented, and of 1642 women with ductal carcinoma in situ, 245 (14.9%) were not consented. RESULTS:Survival was much higher for consenting patients; invasive cancer, 5 year survival 83.2% (95% confidence limits 82.2-84.1%) for consenting patients, 57.1% (53.0-60.9%) for non-consenting, and 80.8% in all patients. Analyses based only on consenting patients overestimate survival in all patients by around 2% at 2, 5, and 10 years. Non-consented patients were older, more often of Pacific ethnicity, had fewer screen-detected cancers, and more often had metastatic disease; they less frequently had primary surgery or systemic treatments. CONCLUSION:Data from a registry requiring active consent gives an upward bias in survival results, as non-consenting patients have more extensive disease, less treatment, and lower survival. To give unbiased results active consent should be not required in a clinical cancer registry.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer epidemiology

Publication Date





178 - 183


Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. Electronic address: