Welcome to the Cancer Mortality Maps & Graphs Web site, provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) . This site provides valuable information about cancer mortality in the U.S. during the time period 1950-1994, based on data obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the Federal Government's principal vital and health statistics agency. On this site you will find several interactive data visualization tools to enhance your ability to view the data.
The Cancer Mortality Maps and Graphs Web site will be updated as new information becomes available. To facilitate future visits, please add this site http://www.nci.nih.gov/atlasplus/ to your list of bookmarks.
Frequently Asked Questions
The study of geographic patterns of cancer may provide important clues to the causes of cancer and improvements in cancer control. This site does not provide information about why death rates may be higher in certain localities than in others, but it can generate leads for in-depth epidemiologic studies that may shed light on factors contributing to cancer risks. Possible risk factors include tobacco use, occupational hazards, dietary habits, ethnic and socioeconomic background, and environmental exposures from the air or water. In addition, geographic variations in mortality rates may reflect differences in access to medical care, such as screening, diagnosis, or treatment.
Earlier cancer atlases published by NCI have made it possible for researchers to identify factors that contribute to the high rates of certain cancers in various parts of the country. Since a high proportion of cancers appear to be attributable to lifestyle and other environmental factors, it is hoped that many of the leads provided by this Web site and the associated Atlas will guide further epidemiologic and public health activities aimed at understanding and preventing cancer.
This Web site is a unique resource that should help researchers and health departments across the country to identify patterns of mortality at the county and SEA level, where the population is small enough to be relatively homogeneous, yet large enough to provide reliable data and stable rates. By using the county and SEA rates, it is possible to uncover patterns of cancer that have escaped notice when larger areas, such as states or regions, are evaluated. However, caution should be used when interpreting variations in rates based on small numbers. Confidence intervals (95%) likely contain the true value of the rate and are presented in the bar charts and downloadable data files.
Death rates are presented by race and gender for the following time periods, 1950-94, 1950-69, 1970-94, and the nine 5-year time periods from 1950-54 through 1990-94. Rates are available for all ages combined, and for the age groups 0-19, 20-49, 50-74, 75+. Rates are calculated for all cancers combined and for approximately 40 cancers separately. Maps and graphs are presented at the level of county (3,055), state economic area (SEA) (508), and state (50 + the District of Columbia). (SEAs consist of individual counties or groups of counties within a state with similar economic and cultural characteristics).
Mortality data are not available for all races because there are few annual population estimates on a county level for nonwhites other than blacks. Mortality data for whites are available for the entire time period, 1950-94, whereas data for blacks are available only from 1970 onward. Data are not available specifically for Asians, Hispanics, or Native Americans.
The entire contents of the volume, Atlas of Cancer Mortality in the United States, 1950-94, are available on the Web site. Downloadable tabulated data used to generate the atlas maps are also available.
No. A "cancer cluster" is generally defined as the occurrence of a greater than expected number of cancer cases or deaths over a short period of time in a small area, such as a neighborhood, a workplace, or medical practice. In such instances, the Atlas or Web site may be helpful in providing background information about how cancer mortality rates in a particular county or SEA compare to the surrounding counties or SEAs, or to the state or national rates, but it cannot provide information at the level of town or neighborhood. In the context of the Atlas, a "geographic cluster" is used to indicate a group of adjacent counties or SEAs with unusually high rates compared to other parts of the country. Click here for more information on cancer clusters.