US: New York unveiled what it billed as the nation’s first comprehensive statewide cancer map, which is now available on the web site of the State Department of Health. The interactive map allows users to see the count of incidences of various types of cancer in different census blocks, which can number in the thousands of people in New York City or fewer than a hundred in upstate counties.
The map also allows users to overlay potentially hazardous sites nearby, including brownfields, or buildings in which chemicals are stored. The sponsors of the legislation that created the cancer map argue that the public should be allowed access to the information, since it is compiled by the state. But they repeatedly cautioned that it represents raw data, merely presenting a count of cancer incidences, and should be interpreted with care.
For instance, if the map were oriented on top of a nursing home, it would be expected to show a higher than normal instance of cancer, but it would not represent some kind of “cancer cluster.” There is also no adjustment for the age of the population or a number of other factors, like whether cases of lung cancer were attributable to environmental factors or smoking.
Source: NY Times