State Releases Eight Additional County-Level Cancer Maps

Sub–County Breast Cancer Map to be Released in April

Albany, March 27, 2000 – As part of Governor Pataki's multi–step Cancer Surveillance Improvement Intiative, the State Health Department today issued eight additional county–level maps that show the incidence of cancer across New York State. The Health Department produced the maps using Cancer Registry data for the years 1992–1996. The county maps released today are available on the Department's web site (www.health.state.ny.us).

"These maps continue Governor Pataki's and the Health Department's commitment to this first–in–the–nation cancer initiative, which provides information to the public and researchers about cancer incidence rates in all of New York's 62 counties," State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello M.D., M.P.H. said. "The data contained in these maps is vitally important. It will not only help to keep the public informed, but it will also be useful to the Department as we set New York's public health priorities regarding cancer.

These county–level maps will be followed by sub–county level maps. In April, the first sub–county cancer map – regarding breast cancer – will be released. That sub–county map will help to identify areas of elevated breast cancer incidences in zip codes across the State and, ultimately, will provide us with guidance on where resources and programs should be targeted. Other sub–county level cancer maps will soon follow."

In 1998, Governor George E. Pataki directed the Department to produce the maps as part of an ongoing, comprehensive initiative that will help health officials track the geographic distribution of cancer cases in New York State and respond to public concerns about possible unusual patterns of illness. The maps released today show incidence of cancer by county for the following types (anatomic sites) of cancer:

Selection of anatomic sites was based on criteria including overall incidence (number of new cases) of the disease, whether the incidence was increasing, and whether the disease has known or suspected causes or risk factors (lifestyle, genetic or environmental associations).

The Cancer Surveillance Improvement Initiative (CSII) is a comprehensive project which will enhance the State's ability to track the occurrence of cancer by improving the New York State Cancer Registry, and through the use of maps, charts and other graphic representations of the geographic pattern of cancer cases. The initiative will also increase public understanding of cancer, its known or suspected causes and risk factors, in order to promote prevention and early detection.

Because cancer maps may suggest unusual patterns of cancer occurrence, State health officials believe that the comprehensive initiative will not only help in tracking new cases of cancer but may even help pinpoint future research needs.

The initiative, which will also include production of sub–county level maps and maps of cancer risk factors, may also indicate where specific health programs and services, such as mammography vans, colorectal screening and increased cancer education, should be targeted for enhancement.

Sub–county maps based on zip code–level cancer data for the years 1993–1997 will be released starting in April. The first sub county map being released is breast cancer. Sub–county level maps will incorporate state–of–the–art techniques to filter out statistical anomalies and better differentiate true cancer excesses from those caused by chance.

The current county cancer maps are included in a booklet which explains the purposes of the CSII; general facts about cancer, its known causes and prevention; facts about the specific type of cancer that was mapped; and how to read the maps and accompanying bar graph. An advisory committee consisting of cancer activists, environmental advocates and national experts in cancer issues, geographic information systems and health risk communication is working closely with the Department to develop the maps and informational materials. Based on the committee's advice, these initial maps will be followed shortly by county maps representing eight more anatomic sites of cancer. These county maps will be followed by sub–county level maps and maps of selected cancer risk factors, as well.

Limitations of cancer maps:

Health officials stress that neither the cancer maps released today nor those to be produced in the future will be able to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship between cancer risk factors, including suspected environmental carcinogens, and incidence of disease. This is partly due to the latency period, as well as the fact that cancer is not a single disease but more than 100 different diseases. What causes a lung cell to change into lung cancer is not the same as what changes a breast cell into breast cancer, or a blood cell into leukemia. In the case of environmental factors, the presence of a known or suspected cancer–causing agent, by itself, does not prove whether individuals were exposed. Without exposure, there is no increased risk.

State health officials believe that cancer maps might help guide the direction of future scientific studies, should unusual disease patterns emerge, through epidemiological studies. The likes of exposure assessment, as well as other critical individual details such as family history of cancer, residential and occupational histories, and behavioral factors such as smoking, diet and amount of physical activity, to name a few, will be provided as well.

Facts About the Cancer Maps Released Today:

Bladder Cancer: Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men and the eighth most common cancer among women in the United States. In New York, about 2,700 men and 1,100 women develop cancer of the bladder each year. About 600 men and 300 women die of this disease each year in NYS. It is estimated that one in 30 men and one in 85 women will develop bladder cancer sometime during their life. Bladder cancer signs and symptoms include: blood in the urine; increased frequency of urination; and irritation during urination.

Brain and Other Nervous System Cancer: Brain cancers usually do not spread outside the nervous system. However, many other types of cancer (such as lung cancer and breast cancer) frequently spread to the brain. This is called metastasis. The maps will show only those cases of cancer that began in the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Cases of cancer which began in other parts of the body and spread to the brain are not included in these maps. Benign brain tumors are also not included. Each year, more than 700 men and about 640 women in New York are diagnosed with cancer of the brain and central nervous system. Almost 400 men and 350 women die of this disease each year in New York State.

Kidney and Renal Pelvis Cancer: The kidneys are two reddish–brown organs, shaped like beans, located above the waist on each side of the spine. The renal pelvis is the inner, curved part of the kidney where urine collects. The kidneys filter blood and produce urine to remove wastes from the body. Urine collects in the renal pelvis and then moves down the ureters to the bladder, where it is stored. The kidneys also assist in controlling blood pressure and forming red blood cells. Each year in New York State more than 1,150 men and 750 women are diagnosed with cancer of the kidney and renal pelvis. More than 400 men and 275 women die of this disease each year in New York State.

Leukemia: Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. Blood is made up of fluid, called plasma, and three other parts that are made in the bone marrow. White blood cells, red blood cells and platelets each have their own function. In leukemia, the body make large numbers of abnormal blood cells. In most types of leukemia, the abnormal cells are white blood cells. Leukemia cells look different from normal blood cells and do not function as they should. The most common types of leukemia are: adult lymphocytic leukemia; acute myeloid leukemia; chronic lymphoid leukemia; and chronic myeloid leukemia.

Liver Cancer: The liver is one of the most important organs of the body. It stores nutrients, produces bile which is needed for digestion, and helps the body process the foods we eat. The liver also breaks down many drugs and chemicals that would be dangerous if they built up in the body. Because of its functions as a filter for the body, many other types of cancer (such as colon cancer and breast cancer) frequently spread to the liver. This is called metastasis. The maps show only those cases of cancer that began in the liver. Each year in New York State, almost 600 men and 350 women are diagnosed with cancer of the liver. More than 500 men and 330 women die of the disease each year.

Non–Hodgkin's Lymphoma: Lymphoma is the name for cancers that develop in the lymphatic system, a part of the body's immune system. The lymphatic system helps the body fight infection and diseases. It is made up of thin tubes, similar to blood vessels, that carry a watery, colorless fluid, called lymph, which contains infection–fighting cells. These cells are called lymphocytes. Along the network of tubes are small, oval–shaped organs call lymphs nodes. Groups of lymph nodes are found in the armpits, neck, chest, abdomen and groin. Lymphomas are often divided into two groups: Hodgkin's lymphoma and non–hodgkin's lymphoma. This report discusses lymphomas that were not classified as "Hodgkin's Lymphoma" or "Hodgkin's Disease."

Each year in New York State almost 1,900 men and more than 1,550 women are diagnosed with non–Hodgkin's lymphoma. Approximately 785 men and 740 women die of this disease each year in New York. Nationally, non–Hodgkin's lymphoma is the fifth most common site of new cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths among men and sixth among women. The incidence of non–Hodgkin's lymphoma is increasing about 3 percent to 4 percent per year. Over the past 15 years, the incidence has increased 50 percent.

Prostate Cancer: In New York State, more than 11,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 2,350 men die of this disease each year. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer, other than skin cancer, diagnosed among men. It is estimated that one in six men will develop prostate cancer sometime during his life. There are more men being diagnosed with prostate cancer in New York State now than there were in the 1980s. The number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer was highest in the 1990s, but has since started to decline. It is believed that most of the increase, early in the decade, is due to more screening for prostate cancer. Increased screening results in more cases of prostate cancer are being diagnosed at an earlier stage. Also, prostate cancer is more common at older ages and more men are living longer and reaching the ages when prostate cancer most frequently occurs.

Thyroid Cancer: The thyroid is a butterfly–shaped gland in the neck. It is located below the Adam's apple and makes hormones. These hormones help control blood pressure, body temperature, the rate at which the heart beats, and how quickly food is converted into energy. Hormones from the thyroid gland also affect a child's growth and development. The thyroid uses iodine, a mineral found in foods, to make some of its hormones. Thyroid cancer is one of the less common cancers among New York State residents. Each year, about 250 new cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed among men and more than 700 new cases are diagnosed among women in New York. Because it generally a slow–growing cancer and usually responds well to treatment, the number of deaths due to thyroid cancer is low. In New York, about 37 men and 65 women die of the disease each year.

For further information:

Electronic versions of the maps are available online, along with interactive features and detailed information including links to cancer resources, from the Health Department's Cancer Surveillance Improvement Initiative web site (www.health.state.ny.us).