GIS/Atlas Cancer Research

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, with approximately 30% of cancer deaths associated with risk factors that are modifiable. Through primary prevention, early detection, and timely treatment, the burden of colorectal  and prostate cancer – may be substantially reduced [ACS, 2003]. Currently, the colon/rectum is the third leading site for all cancer deaths (10% of all cancer deaths) and the third leading site of a cancer diagnosis [ACS, 2003]. Among men, the prostate is second leading cause of cancer death (10% of all cancer deaths) and the most frequently diagnosed site for cancer. Rates of prostate cancer death among African-American men are twice as high as rates among white men.

Significant variation in the reducible burden of colorectal and prostate cancer exists by geographic location. State-based geographic variation in cancer burden has led epidemiologists, geographers, and statisticians to use maps and spatial statistics to seek to better understand reasons for this variation and to reduce the burden. Common tools for this work have included Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and atlases, particularly paper-based atlases. Despite the fact that GIS and atlases are widespread and have provided initial successes at portraying and analyzing geographic variation in cancer burden, there exists a substantial gap in best methods to visually and statistically analyze and interpret geographic variation in cancer burden. Best practice methods that are widely disseminated would assist state agencies to make and utilize accurate and timely interpretations of their cancer data. These interpretations would then assist state policy makers in decision-making, planning and evaluating as they implement Comprehensive Cancer Control . Using cancer data from Pennsylvania (PA), the 5th most populous state in the U.S. and newly collected information from state agencies throughout the U.S., this proposal will fill the above gap.

The goal of the model GIS/Atlas is to develop, test and disseminate methods and products that provide an accurate, timely, and innovative display and analysis of state-based, geo-referenced cancer data. This research is a logical step in our long-range goal to effectively utilize geo-referenced data to reduce cancer burden. Primary users of this research will be state and national health agencies as they plan, implement and evaluate initiatives to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality. Epidemiologists and other health researchers will also benefit from this research and product development and dissemination.

This project was made possible through a Cooperative Agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), award number MM-0718.  The contents of this Web site are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the CDC or AAMC.