European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 15–22 | Cite as

Spatial autocorrelation of cancer in Western Europe

  • Michael S. Rosenberg
  • Robert R. Sokal
  • Neal L. Oden
  • Donna DiGiovanni


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 epidemiological 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.

Cancer mortalities Europe Spatial autocorrelation 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael S. Rosenberg
    • 1
  • Robert R. Sokal
    • 1
  • Neal L. Oden
    • 2
  • Donna DiGiovanni
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and EvolutionState University of New York at Stony BrookStony BrookUSA
  2. 2.The EMMES CorporationPotomacUSA
  3. 3.Department of NeurologyState University of New York at Stony BrookStony BrookUSA

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