American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

The NCDB PUF Application Is Now Open

The National Cancer Database (NCDB) is pleased to announce that the Participant User File (PUF) application process is now open. The NCDB will accept submissions for site-specific files, which include cases diagnosed between 2004 and 2016. The application period will now be open year-round, except for brief scheduled maintenance or updates. The 2017 PUF data is anticipated to be available in early 2020.

One change of note in this release of the PUF is that you will have the option of requesting a technical review of your proposal for feasibility. Although you are not required to request a technical review, we encourage you to do so, especially if you are a new PUF user.

If you have not yet applied for a 2016 PUF file, note that there are several changes to the variables in the 2016 PUF, including the addition of a new variable that groups states by their Medicaid Expansion status under the Affordable Care Act. The changes are described in the Summary of 2016 PUF User File Changes document.

The NCDB PUF is a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant data file containing cases submitted to the Commission on Cancer's (CoC) NCDB and complies with the terms of the Business Associate Agreement between the American College of Surgeons and cancer programs accredited by the CoC—no patients or facilities can be identified. The PUF is designed to provide investigators at CoC-accredited cancer programs with a data resource they can use to review and advance the quality of care delivered to cancer patients through analyses of cases reported to the NCDB.

Prior to planning to submit a PUF, you are advised to read the information provided on our website. A critical informational tool for all applicants is the Getting Started Document, which details the variables and their limitations that could impact your proposed study. It is also important to review the PUF data dictionary to ensure that you are able to conduct your proposed study with the variables available.

Applicants are expected to:

  • Be added as a PUF applicant with a CoC Datalinks Username and Password (contact your hospital cancer registrar for assistance)
  • Complete a PUF application, including disease site requested, data analyst, co-investigators, study question, analysis plan and other relevant information
  • Receive a letter of support from your cancer program's Cancer Committee Chair. This letter is to be on letterhead and uploaded at the time of submission of your application in order to be reviewed
  • Review the American College of Surgeons CoC NCDB PUF Purpose and Terms of Agreement and Data Use Agreement to determine if any conflicts may arise at your facility or in your intended use of the PUF
  • Assess your facility's institutional review board policy

PUF applicants will receive files within two weeks after the submission is approved. In order to download the requested files, a Data Use Agreement must first be signed electronically.

Following receipt of a PUF file, if an applicant is found to be out of compliance with the PUF Program Policies, he or she may be barred from receiving future PUF files. If multiple issues are found within the same institution, the institution may be suspended from the PUF application process.

For additional information, please visit the PUF website.

Questions regarding the NCDB PUF or the PUF submission process should be sent to NCDB technical staff at