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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

NY State Department Of Health Five Year Cancer Count Map Shows 77 Cases For One Roosevelt Island Area But Only 26 Mere Blocks Away - What's Going On?

Continuing on the Health and Fitness Theme from earlier today. This is troubling information though not enough is known yet to draw any conclusions. From Gothamist:

The state departments of Health and Environmental Conservation unveiled a new, interactive map today that uses census data from 2000 to show cases of cancer around the city. It also highlights things like hazardous waste generators, commercial pesticide sellers and active solid waste sites in hopes that users can better understand the causes of cancer.

The neighborhoods on the map are divided into small units with vast ranges in population, so the differences in cancer cases are small but sometimes noticeable. For instance, one Roosevelt Island neighborhood with a population of about 5,000 had 77 cases (about 1.5% of the population), including 7 cases of lung cancer and 9 cases of prostate cancer...
According to the NY State Department Of Health (NY DOH):
The Environmental Facilities and Cancer Map shows the number of people diagnosed with cancer (cancer counts) for the years 2003-2007 in small geographic areas of New York State. Locations of certain environmental facilities can also be viewed. These maps cannot show that an environmental facility causes cancer in a community for a variety of reasons.


View Larger Map

Below is the Five Year Cancer Counts for Roosevelt Island's 475 Main Street area provided by the NY DOH
475 MAIN ST, NEW YORK, NY, 10044

Small area ID number: 115003

Five-Year Cancer Counts

Site Cases
Brain and Other Nervous System 2
Bones and Joints 0
Colon and Rectum 7
Corpus Uterus 0
Esophagus 2
Female Breast 6
Kidney and Renal Pelvis 4
Larynx 2
Leukemia 2
Liver and Intrahepatic Bile Duct 4
Lung and Bronchus 7
Mesothelioma 0
Nasal and Nasopharynx 1
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma 1
Oral Cavity and Pharynx 5
Ovary 0
Pancreas 3
Prostate 9
Stomach 2
Soft Tissue 0
Testis 0
Thyroid 2
Urinary Bladder 5
Other Cancers not Specifically Listed 13
Total 77
Confusingly, the statistics change dramatically from a total of 77 cases to 26 with a different address - 591 Main Street - a few blocks north.


View Larger Map
Note that the two Roosevelt Island addresses have different "Small Area ID Numbers".
591 MAIN ST, NEW YORK, NY, 10044

Small area ID number: 124607

Five-Year Cancer Counts

Site Cases
Brain and Other Nervous System 2
Bones and Joints 0
Colon and Rectum 3
Corpus Uterus 1
Esophagus 0
Female Breast 1
Kidney and Renal Pelvis 1
Larynx 0
Leukemia 0
Liver and Intrahepatic Bile Duct 0
Lung and Bronchus 6
Mesothelioma 0
Nasal and Nasopharynx 1
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma 2
Oral Cavity and Pharynx 1
Ovary 0
Pancreas 0
Prostate 4
Stomach 1
Soft Tissue 0
Testis 0
Thyroid 0
Urinary Bladder 0
Other Cancers not Specifically Listed 3
Total 26
Does the location of Coler-Goldwater Hospital on both the south and north ends of Roosevelt Island skewer these results? I don't know but will be looking into it.

UPDATE 7:30 PM - The NY Times provides some additional information regarding the Department Of Health Cancer Map:
... The creation of the map was opposed by both the department and the American Cancer Society when it was proposed two years ago, according to a review of state records, amid concerns that its unfiltered data could be misinterpreted...

...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. For instance, randomly highlighting a four-square-block chunk of Brooklyn, between Henry and Court Streets and Second and Fourth Places, shows 23 cases of cancer out of 1,195 residents, with pancreatic and uterine cancers the most prevalent...

... 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.”...
UPDATE 5/12 - A reader, Nicolas, does not want anyone to think that the DOH report concludes Roosevelt Island has a higher cancer rate than other NYC neighborhood. Nicolas comments:
I did not look at the Gothamist article before, but I think you should quote it entirely, because it compares Roosevelt Island with two other neighborhoods, one in the West Village and one in DUMBO to illustrate discrepancies between areas. In opposition to the feeling I had when I read your article, RI is, among the 3, the zone with the LOWEST incidence of Cancer (1.5% vs 3% and 4.7%).
I would strongly suggest you to modify your article and reflect this, because otherwise it might really scare people...

Apparently, the goal of this map was to make people realize that cancer is a very common disease. It was not to scare people about higher occurences of this or that type of cancer in their neighborhood.
The full quote from Gothamist:
... The neighborhoods on the map are divided into small units with vast ranges in population, so the differences in cancer cases are small but sometimes noticeable. For instance, one Roosevelt Island neighborhood with a population of about 5,000 had 77 cases (about 1.5% of the population), including 7 cases of lung cancer and 9 cases of prostate cancer. Meanwhile, a West Village neighborhood near three chemical bulk storage sites reported 3% of their population with cancer. One area in DUMBO near a few active solid waste sites had 64 cases, about 4.7% of the population, with 10 cases of breast cancer and 7 cases of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma...
The NY State DOH web site advises not to draw any conclusions from the data regarding a neighborhood's cancer rate :
The cancer counts reflect people's addresses at the time of their cancer diagnosis

It is possible that people with cancer lived elsewhere before their diagnosis. This is important because cancer can take many years (5 to 40 years) to develop. This is referred to as cancer latency. People's exposures earlier in life, at a different address, may have contributed to their cancer.

22 comments :

Nicolas said...

But this doesn't tell anything about the population in each of the "small area ID number", right? (or are they of equal size, by design?).
I have a feeling that the situation is more complex than described here, and that many factors should be taken into account.
Overall, that sounds quite scary...

ROOSEVELT ISLANDER said...

Nicolas
Good points, the subject is much more complex than the map data indicates. See the update.

Nicolas said...

I did not look at the Gothamist article before, but I think you should quote it entirely, because it compares Roosevelt Island with two other neighborhoods, one in the West Village and one in DUMBO to illustrate discrepancies between areas. In opposition to the feeling I had when I read your article, RI is, among the 3, the zone with the LOWEST incidence of Cancer (1.5% vs 3% and 4.7%).
I would strongly suggest you to modify your article and reflect this, because otherwise it might really scare people...

Apparently, the goal of this map was to make people realize that cancer is a very common disease. It was not to scare people about higher occurences of this or that type of cancer in their neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Isn't 475 main st the Sloan Kettering building?

Nicolas said...

yes, it is.
But the number reported here correspond to the area to which belongs 475 (but is not limited to this building). And again, the occurence of cancer is weaker in this area than in at least two other examples listed on the Gothamist article. In fact, our area is taken as an example of low occurence! Please make that clear in the article....

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