Monday, August 26, 2013

The Geography of Cancer, by Gender

It's a mystery. Why should the geography of cancer be different for men than for women? Maybe you can think of an answer. If so, be sure to leave a comment.

Here's the graph for cancer mortality rates among all U.S. women (1985-2004), by county, courtesy of

Notably, cancer in women seems to be higher along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers as well as the Hudson River. There is also a lot of red in coastal New England, the Gulf states (except southern Texas and southern Florida), and northern California.

Compare the above graph to the graph for U.S. men:

The map for men shows an extraordinary concentration of cancer mortality in the South. Note the huge difference between southern Florida and northern Florida, and also between west Texas and east Texas. A thin strip of reduced-cancer geography follows the Appalachian Trail.

It should be noted that the numbers for men are much higher than for women. In the graph for women, the darkest reds start at 182.35, which is only light pink on the men's graph. Nevertheless, the key point is that the geographical distribution of mortality is qualitatively much different for men. The highest death rates for men are clearly in the southern states.

It wasn't always this way. The two graphs above are for the years 1985 to 2004. The graph below shows what cancer mortality for U.S. men looked like using statistics from 1950 to 1984:

This graph shows a pattern much more similar to the women's graph. Somehow, between the 1960s and the 1990s, cancer in men migrated to the southern states. But why?

One clue might be found in the country's changing demographics: The U.S. had a much younger population in 1950 than in 2004. In 1950, barely 8% of the country was age 65 or over. Today about 20% of U.S. citizens are 65 or over. The cancers of old age, in men, are lung (No. 1) and prostate (No. 2). And it does appear that cancer mortalities from those two categories map disproportionately to the southern states. (I'll show the prostate map in my next post.) But still, cancer knows nothing about geography. Why should it be more pronounced in the South? Especially since a map of U.S. population by age shows no accumulation of older Americans in the South?

This is, in my opinion, a rather large open question in epidemiology. It would be nice if someone could provide an answer.


  1. Anonymous12:40 PM

    My opinion:Cancer relates to nutritional intake & polutant intake.Plastics play a large role as children's levels of plastic chems are 10 times adult counterparts.The cures are out there but good luck finding them.You will be fighting big $$$ and the AMA.Think about it.A cure would put the Med profession,Research drives & charities,and drug companies almost out of business.

    1. College education may begin when the student completes his school life and enters into the practical and real world. He learns to take responsibility for his actions, takes life seriously and aims his goals towards successful accomplishments.pharmacist letter of intent

  2. Anonymous12:44 PM

    The highest number of Lymphoma cases are in the Mid-West. The "Lymphoma Belt" as it is called by doctors at the Mayo Clinic. This is a result of one thing, farm chemicals poisoning the water.
    I don't know where everyone gets their information, but I was informed by the Mayo Clinic that 1 in 4 now has cancer. In 20 years that number will be 3 in 4.
    Those figures can be disputed all anybody wants. Unfortunately, this number comes from the doctor's mouths and not from a study backed by political interests and large corporations.
    I tell people, look around at your next family reunion. 3 of EVERY 4 will get cancer. It's not a matter of "if" anymore. It's a matter of "when".

    1. Personally, I believe the lymphoma belt is the result of atomic testing in Nevada, which sent dust clouds high into the atmosphere. The heavy elements from that dust followed prevailing winds over the Rockies, and on the downwind side, where the fiercest thunderstorms in the world form, radioactive strontium and cesium (known to cause lymphomas and leukemias) precipitated out, entering the soil and groundwater. This started in the 1950s and 1960s when atomic testing occurred in the open air, and its effects are still being felt today.

  3. One note that health physicists have observed is that higher elevations have lower cancer rates, and while those areas have healthier diets, they also have an additional 100-200 millirem background radiation exposure.

  4. Anonymous2:27 PM

    Tobacco use leading to lung cancer is the most likely explanation. You made the case for it yourself.

  5. Anonymous2:32 PM

    The change in cancer rates in the South is astonishing. I wonder, do the effected areas map onto some specific type of agriculture, and if so, did agricultural practices (viz. use of pesticides) change?

    Chris Burd

  6. Very interesting graphs. One graph that might be cool to look at is a graph that displays the DIFFERENCES in rates between men and women. I think the differences would just pop out on that map!

  7. I have a theory for you.

    I was sent to a urologist when I lived in Los Angeles because I was having shooting pains in my testicles and up my pelvis. On the urologist's wall was the cover of a Los Angeles Magazine that essentially led me to conclude that my HMO had somehow provided me with a world-class doctor who used to be Ronald Reagan's urologist (a letter from Nancy Reagan was also on the wall and everything).

    Halfway through my description of my symptoms, the doctor stopped me and said he saw 20 patients a week with the same thing, and that I had to stop consuming these 3 certain substances. After he checked my prostate and testicles (I was 25 years old at the time—yikes) he said I had the prostate of a 60-year-old and that I had to abstain from the aforementioned substances for six weeks, at which point I'd have another date with his fingers.

    At the end of those six weeks, during which I abstained as instructed, he said that my prostate was back to a normal size, and he diagnosed me as having had epididymitis (inflammation of a tube in testicles) and prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), and he blamed the aforementioned substances.

    Those substances?

    1. Alcohol, 2. caffeine, and 3. "anything spicier than black pepper."

    I've gone to other doctors who think that doctor (the doctor's name is Milton Krisiloff) is a quack, as even Dr. K admitted that there is very little scientific cause-and-effect between the consumption of those substances and the symptoms they produce; it's just in his decades of practice it, for whatever reason, works.

    He told me that chronic epididymitis can lead to sterility, and chronic prostatitis can lead to prostate cancer.

    I've heard that there is a proliferation of prostate cancer among black men, and now that these maps show a proliferation of cancer among men in the South, it makes me think that if you take a look at the stereotypical "consumption culture" between those two groups, there's an awful lot of alcohol and spicy food going down the old gullet.

    By the way, without those three foods, my life sucks.

    But it's better than having migraines in my jewels.

    Anyway, I've always wanted to share that theory, and now I have.

    Be well.

  8. I think at least part of the issue is that Southern states disagree with environmental protections on principle. Another factor in the South is a lack of interest in the health and wellbeing of the poor, even though they're a larger percentage of the population.

  9. I think at least part of the issue is that Southern states disagree with environmental protections on principle. Another factor in the South is a lack of interest in the health and wellbeing of the poor, even though they're a larger percentage of the population.

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