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Developing the atlas of cancer in Queensland: methodological issues

Susanna M Cramb12*, Kerrie L Mengersen2 and Peter D Baade13

Author Affiliations

1 Viertel Centre for Research in Cancer Control, Cancer Council Queensland, Gregory Tce, Fortitude Valley, Australia

2 Centre for Data Analysis, Modelling and Computation, Queensland University of Technology, George St, Brisbane, Australia

3 School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Herston Rd, Kelvin Grove, Australia

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2011, 10:9  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-10-9

Published: 24 January 2011



Achieving health equity has been identified as a major challenge, both internationally and within Australia. Inequalities in cancer outcomes are well documented, and must be quantified before they can be addressed. One method of portraying geographical variation in data uses maps. Recently we have produced thematic maps showing the geographical variation in cancer incidence and survival across Queensland, Australia. This article documents the decisions and rationale used in producing these maps, with the aim to assist others in producing chronic disease atlases.


Bayesian hierarchical models were used to produce the estimates. Justification for the cancers chosen, geographical areas used, modelling method, outcome measures mapped, production of the adjacency matrix, assessment of convergence, sensitivity analyses performed and determination of significant geographical variation is provided.


Although careful consideration of many issues is required, chronic disease atlases are a useful tool for assessing and quantifying geographical inequalities. In addition they help focus research efforts to investigate why the observed inequalities exist, which in turn inform advocacy, policy, support and education programs designed to reduce these inequalities.