Dr. William Pomerance, 72, the chief of the diagnosis research program at the National Cancer Institute, died of cancer Friday at his home in Bethesda.

Dr. Pomerance was born in New York City and spent most of his career as a physician in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was director of obstetrics and gynecology and then medical director at the Maimonides Hospital. He moved to Florida in 1970 to care for his wife, Marjorie, who was ill, and joined the staff of the cancer institute in 1973 following her death.

At NCI, Dr. Pomerance helped organize a joint nationwide effort with the American Cancer Society to develop 27 breast cancer demonstration projects. He also helped develop programs for the diagnosis of lung, large bowel and pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Pomerance was a graduate of the City College of New York. He earned his medical degree at New York University. He had specialized in cancer in women.

He was a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Obstretricians and Gynecologists.

Survivors include a daughter, Dr. Katherine Schrode, a biochemist at the University of Maryland, of Rockville, and a son, Dr. Jeffrey J., a physician in Los Angeles; two sisters, Rose Oelbaum, of New York City, and Sarah Sugar, of Los Angeles; three brothers, Isadore and Leo, of New York, and Joseph, of Los Angeles, and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society.