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Spatial epidemiology of cancer: a review of data sources, methods and risk factors

Rita Roquette, Marco Painho, Baltazar Nunes
  • Rita Roquette
    Nova IMS Information Management School, Lisbon; National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge, Lisbon, Portugal |
  • Marco Painho
    Nova IMS Information Management School, Lisbon, Portugal
  • Baltazar Nunes
    National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge, Lisbon; Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal


Cancer is a major concern among chronic diseases today. Spatial epidemiology plays a relevant role in this matter and we present here a review of this subject, including a discussion of the literature in terms of the level of geographic data aggregation, risk factors and methods used to analyse the spatial distribution of patterns and spatial clusters. For this purpose, we performed a websearch in the Pubmed and Web of Science databases including studies published between 1979 and 2015. We found 180 papers from 63 journals and noted that spatial epidemiology of cancer has been addressed with more emphasis during the last decade with research based on data mostly extracted from cancer registries and official mortality statistics. In general, the research questions present in the reviewed papers can be classified into three different sets: i) analysis of spatial distribution of cancer and/or its temporal evolution; ii) risk factors; iii) development of data analysis methods and/or evaluation of results obtained from application of existing methods. This review is expected to help promote research in this area through the identification of relevant knowledge gaps. Cancer’s spatial epidemiology represents an important concern, mainly for public health policies design aimed to minimise the impact of chronic disease in specific populations.


Spatial epidemiology; Cancer; Review; Geographic information systems

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Submitted: 2016-08-24 16:01:13
Published: 2017-05-08 10:52:26
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Copyright (c) 2017 Rita Roquette, Marco Painho, Baltazar Nunes

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