Open Access Methodology

Case-control geographic clustering for residential histories accounting for risk factors and covariates

Geoffrey M Jacquez12*, Jaymie R Meliker12, Gillian A AvRuskin1, Pierre Goovaerts1, Andy Kaufmann1, Mark L Wilson2 and Jerome Nriagu2

Author Affiliations

1 BioMedware, 516 North State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1236, USA

2 The University of Michigan, School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2006, 5:32  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-5-32

Published: 3 August 2006

Abstract

Background

Methods for analyzing space-time variation in risk in case-control studies typically ignore residential mobility. We develop an approach for analyzing case-control data for mobile individuals and apply it to study bladder cancer in 11 counties in southeastern Michigan. At this time data collection is incomplete and no inferences should be drawn – we analyze these data to demonstrate the novel methods. Global, local and focused clustering of residential histories for 219 cases and 437 controls is quantified using time-dependent nearest neighbor relationships. Business address histories for 268 industries that release known or suspected bladder cancer carcinogens are analyzed. A logistic model accounting for smoking, gender, age, race and education specifies the probability of being a case, and is incorporated into the cluster randomization procedures. Sensitivity of clustering to definition of the proximity metric is assessed for 1 to 75 k nearest neighbors.

Results

Global clustering is partly explained by the covariates but remains statistically significant at 12 of the 14 levels of k considered. After accounting for the covariates 26 Local clusters are found in Lapeer, Ingham, Oakland and Jackson counties, with the clusters in Ingham and Oakland counties appearing in 1950 and persisting to the present. Statistically significant focused clusters are found about the business address histories of 22 industries located in Oakland (19 clusters), Ingham (2) and Jackson (1) counties. Clusters in central and southeastern Oakland County appear in the 1930's and persist to the present day.

Conclusion

These methods provide a systematic approach for evaluating a series of increasingly realistic alternative hypotheses regarding the sources of excess risk. So long as selection of cases and controls is population-based and not geographically biased, these tools can provide insights into geographic risk factors that were not specifically assessed in the case-control study design.