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PURPOSE: To explore whether privacy restrictions developed to protect patients have complicated research within a 15-year surveillance study conducted with US cancer registries.

METHODS: Data from enrolling 27 cancer registries over a 10-year period were examined to describe the amount of time needed to obtain study approval. We also analyzed the proportion of patients that completed a research interview out of the total reported by the registries and examined factors thought to influence this measure.

RESULTS: The average length of the research review process from submission to approval of the research was 7 months (range, <1 to 24 months), and it took 6 months or more to obtain approval of the research at 41% of the cancer registries. Most registries (78%) required additional permission steps to gain access to patients for research. After adjustment for covariates, the interview response proportion was 110% greater (ratio of response proportion = 2.1; 95% confidence interval: 1.3, 3.3) when the least restrictive versus the most restrictive permission steps were required. An interview was more often completed for patients (or proxies) if patients were alive, within a year of being diagnosed, or identified earlier in the study.

CONCLUSIONS: Lengthy research review processes increased the time between diagnosis and provision of patient information to the researcher. Requiring physician permission for access to patients was associated with lower subject participation. A single national point of entry for use of cancer registry data in health research is worthy of consideration to make the research approval process efficient.

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