Definition / meaning of mortality

The number of deaths during a specific time period.

A cancer mortality rate is the number of deaths, with cancer as the underlying cause of death, occurring in a specified population during a year. Cancer mortality is usually expressed as the number of deaths due to cancer per 100,000 population. That is: Mortality Rate = (Cancer Deaths / Population) × 100,000 .

The numerator of the mortality rate is the number of deaths; the denominator is the size of the population. The population used depends on the rate to be calculated. For cancer sites that occur in only one sex, the sex-specific population (e.g., females for cervical cancer) is used. The mortality rate can be computed for a given cancer site or for all cancers combined.

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The Web site of the National Cancer Institute (

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