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New York Unveils Statewide Cancer Map

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New York has developed the nation’s first statewide cancer map, pinpointing locations of diagnosed cases of cancer.

The interactive map available on the New York State Department of Health website allows the user to input an address to see how many diagnosed cases of certain types of cancer occurred from 2003-2007 for a specific city block, with the ability to pan, zoom in and out. Instructions here show the user how to use the map.

The state separated cancers on the map into 24 categories by which organ in which they originate, such as brain, breast, prostate or mesothelioma.

Included in the mapping are fifteen types of potentially hazardous sites, called “environmental facilities” such as chemical and petroleum storage sites, Brownfield and Superfund sites, solid and hazardous waste facilities. The map only shows location of these environmental facilities and does not imply that they caused cancer in surrounding communities.

The state wants people to keep in mind when viewing the cancer map, that many factors are not accounted for in the data. The compiled data only shows where a person lived at the time of their cancer diagnosis. Cancer can take 5-40 years to develop and they may have lived somewhere else prior to diagnosis. Cancer is more common among older people, so communities with higher populations of older people may show more cancer cases. The map does not contain information about individual cancer risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, sun exposure, diet, radiation exposure, asbestos exposure and family history that may have contributed to the cancer cases.

The New York Legislature voted to establish the cancer map and Governor Paterson signed it into law on September 26, 2008.

“The growing incidence of cancer is a serious public concern and is troubling to the medical and research communities,” said Senator Kenneth P. LaValle in support of the bill. “This mapping project will provide a starting point to determine if there is a link between cancers and the environment. The information generated from this project should be very helpful to physicians and disease control professionals who are trying to uncover any possible connection.”

Since the state posted the map on Monday, heavy user traffic has overwhelmed the site’s capacity and caused the map to load slowly at times.