Spatial autocorrelation of cancer in Western Europe

Michael S. Rosenberg, Robert R. Sokal, Neal L. Oden, Donna Digiovanni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


We applied the techniques of spatial autocorrelation (SA) analysis to 40 cancer mortality distributions in Western Europe. One of the aims of these methods is to describe the scale over which spatial patterns of mortalities occur, which may provide suggestions concerning the agents bringing about the patterns. We analyzed 355 registration areas, applying one- and two- dimensional SA as well as local SA techniques. We find that cancer mortalities are unusually strongly spatially structured, implying similar spatial structuring of the responsible agents. The small number of spatial patterns (4 or 5) in the 40 cancer mortalities suggests there are fewer spatially patterned agents than the number of cancers studied. SA present in variables will bias the results of conventional statistical tests applied to them. After correcting for such bias, some pairwise correlations of cancer mortality distributions remain significant, suggesting inherent, epidemiologically meaningful correlations. Local SA is a useful technique for exploring epidemioiogical maps. It found homogeneous high overall cancer mortalities in Denmark and homogeneous low mortalities in southern Italy, as well as a very heterogeneous pattern for ovarian cancer in Ireland.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-22
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999


  • Cancer mortalities
  • Europe
  • Spatial autocorrelation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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