New project will develop cancer maps for Pennsylvania

A three-year, $736,000 grant from the Association of American Medical Colleges and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will allow Penn State Cancer Institute to develop cancer maps to identify Pennsylvania communities with particularly high rates of colorectal and prostate cancer.

"A picture, or a map in this case, is worth a thousand words," said Eugene Lengerich, V.M.D., M.S., principal investigator for the grant and associate professor of health evaluation sciences, Penn State College of Medicine. "Our goal is to use the latest mapping technology to bolster the ongoing efforts of Pennsylvania communities to prevent cancer. Our communities deserve the latest technology."

Armed with information about cancer rates in specific geographic areas, individuals, organizations, health care providers and government agencies can better plan and evaluate cancer interventions in Pennsylvania communities.

The model developed under this grant will be based on prostate and colorectal cancers because available screenings and interventions provide significant opportunity to reduce the burden of these cancers. Once developed, this model can be expanded not only to other cancer types, but also to other states.

Based on data from the Pennsylvania Central Cancer Registry of the state Department of Health, the extent of the burden of colorectal and prostate cancers varies by geographic region. For example, the rate of colorectal cancer death in individual counties in 2000 varied from 28.8 per 100,000 to 15.8 per 100,000, and the rates of prostate cancer varied even more greatly.

Researchers have used statistics and maps to better understand reasons for the great variation in cancer burden.

"The common tools available to do this, which include paper atlases, are somewhat effective, but they are not interactive and cannot be tailored to yield data about individual communities," Lengerich said. "There is a substantial gap between the current and

Contact: Valerie Gliem
Penn State

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