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Small area mapping of prostate cancer incidence in New York State (USA) using fully Bayesian hierarchical modelling

Author(s): Johnson Glen

Journal: International Journal of Health Geographics
ISSN 1476-072X

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 29;
Date: 2004;
Original page

Abstract Background As part of a long-term initiative to improve cancer surveillance in New York State, small area maps of relative risk, expressed as standardized incidence ratios (SIRs), were produced for the most common cancers. This includes prostate cancer, the focus of this paper, since it is the most common non-dermatologic malignancy diagnosed among men and the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men in the United States. ZIP codes were chosen as mapping units for several reasons, including the need to balance between protecting personal privacy and public demand for fine geographic resolution. Since the population size varies greatly among such small mapping units, hierarchical Bayes spatial modelling was applied in this paper to produce a map of smoothed SIRs. It is further demonstrated how other characteristics of the large sample from the stationary posterior distribution of SIRs can be mapped to investigate various aspects of the statewide spatial pattern of prostate cancer incidence. Results Thematic mapping of the median and 95 percentile range of SIRs provided, respectively, a map of spatially smoothed values and the uncertainty associated with these smoothed values. Maps were also produced to identify ZIP codes expressing a 95% probability, in the Bayesian paradigm, of being less than or greater than the null value of 1. Conclusion The model behaved as expected since areas that were statistically elevated coincided with areas identified by the spatial scan statistic, plus the relative uncertainty increased as a ZIP code's population decreased, with an exaggerated effect for low population ZIP codes on the edge of the state border. The overall smoothed pattern, along with identified high and low areas, may reflect difference across the state with respect to socio-demographics and risk factors; however, this is confounded by potential differences in screening and diagnostic follow-up. Nevertheless, the Bayes modelling approach is shown to provide not only smoothed results, but also considerable other information from a large empirical distribution of outcomes associated with each mapping unit.
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