Geographic Information Systems

NCI has had an active research program investigating geographic patterns of cancer in the United States for over 25 years. These activities are conducted in collaboration with researchers across NCI and at other federal agencies. Currently under investigation are methods to better display and analyze geographic data. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) facilitate these activities by managing spatial data from many sources and displaying these data as layered maps. New methods of exploring the patterns in cancer data are being developed or extended. For example, software to identify circular cancer clusters ("hot spots") is being modified to detect more generally-shaped clusters. Methods of linking graphs and maps for interactive Web presentation are being tested for usability in Web-based projects. These new graphics will more effectively disseminate detailed cancer statistics to the general public, health department staff, and public health researchers.

Another area of research accomplishment is that of the statistical analysis of geographic data. Newly developed statistical models will be used to predict the number of new cancer cases expected in each state, using a method that projects associations between cancer incidence and health risk behaviors, sociodemographic factors, and mortality rates in SEER registry data to other geographic areas. Preliminary results suggest that this method can greatly improve estimates of new cases published annually by the American Cancer Society. Spatial information is also being incorporated into more standard analyses. For example, distance to screening and treatment facilities, transportation routes, and local neighborhood characteristics are particularly relevant to the study of late-stage cancer diagnosis and health care disparities.

The Geographic Information Systems Web site is a central source of information about GIS and related resources, including GIS-based research at NCI.

Surveillance Research Program staff serve on advisory committees for geographic projects at the US Geologic Survey, the National Science Foundation, the New York State Health Department, the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project, the California Health Interview Survey, and the GIS Working Group for the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

Last modified:
07 Jul 2006
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