FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 8, 1999
Contact: NCI Press Office
The National Cancer Institute Publishes New Atlas of Cancer Mortality
- The high rates of lung cancer among men in Southern Coastal areas were related to asbestos exposure resulting from work in shipyards, particularly during World
- Elevated death rates for mouth and throat cancers among women living in the rural South were associated with use of smokeless tobacco.
- High death rates of esophageal cancer in Washington, D.C. and the coastal areas of South Carolina were linked to alcohol consumption and tobacco use, along with deficiencies in fruit and vegetable consumption.
- High lung cancer death rates were seen not only among smelter workers but also among people who live close to arsenic-emitting smelters.
- High colon cancer death rates in eastern Nebraska occurred mainly among persons of Czechoslovakian background, in whom dietary factors appeared to contribute to the risk.
"We've discovered that the reasons for high rates are quite varied," said Hoover. "Sometimes they're due to occupational exposures. For example, in addition to lung cancer in shipyard workers, we've seen elevated rates of nasal cancer among furniture and textile workers in particular areas of the Southeast. On the other hand, increased rates may be due to general environmental exposures, such as arsenic and lung cancer, or lifestyle differences, such as the regional patterns for breast cancer and, most likely, colon cancer."
One study has already been initiated in response to the new atlas. Bladder cancer among men has tended to cluster in the urban Northeast since the 1950s, particularly in areas with chemical industries. Previous studies in high-risk areas have also shown elevated risks among truck drivers and other workers exposed to motor exhausts. The main risk factor is cigarette smoking, which accounts for one-half of bladder cancer. But the new atlas has shown that Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and upstate New York have elevated rates in both sexes that have become more pronounced over time.
"We have been working with the states and with some of the academic departments in these states to develop a pilot study to pursue some of the current hypotheses for why the rates for bladder cancer have become more pronounced," said Hoover.
There are, however, some limitations to the atlas data. The atlas is less useful in generating research leads for cancer sites in which death rates do not vary much across the country, such as cancers of the pancreas and brain. In addition, for cancer sites with higher survival rates, such as breast and cervix, it is difficult to tell whether the geographic variation reflects environmental influences, factors related to medical care and health care delivery systems, reporting practices, migration patterns, or combinations of these variables.
The Atlas of Cancer Mortality in the United States, 1950-94 is a continuation of the cancer mapping project in NCI's epidemiology program. The first atlas with color-coded mortality maps at the county level was published in 1975 and covered the years 1950-69. The current atlas adds 25 years of data to the original atlas and compares the patterns for 1950-69 with those for 1970-94. In addition, for the first time, an interactive version of the data will be available on the Internet.
Web accessibility makes several new features possible. Not only can the maps, text, tables, and figures from the hard copy be downloaded from the Web site, but national and state mortality rates are also available, as are the tabulated data used to generate the maps. Another feature of the atlas Web site is that the user can create customized maps. For example, the user can compare rates in different time periods, look at rates for any cancer in any county, zoom and pan different areas of the country, and make color selections. Visit the atlas Web site at
To order a single printed copy of the atlas, call NCI's Cancer Information Service at
1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). It may also be ordered on NCI's on-line Publications Locator Service at http://publications.nci.nih.gov. The number for callers with TTY equipment is 1-800-332-8615.
For more information about cancer visit NCI's Web site for patients, public, and the mass media at http://www.nci.nih.gov.
Related Press Releases:
Questions and Answers for Atlas of Cancer Mortality in the United States, 1950-94
Research Contributions from Earlier Atlases