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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Emory Expert Recommends ‘Responsibly Responsive’ Next Steps in Pediatric Cancer Clusters

In a review of the analyses  of higher-than-expected rates of pediatric cancers in the Miami metro area and area west of the Everglades. Dr. Lance A. Waller, a biostatistics professor specializing in spatial epidemiology at Emory’s Rollins School of Public urges care in next steps.  In the journal Science and Public Policy, Dr. Waller and his team recommend that state and local health officials look carefully at where, when, and how the analytic methods agree and how they differ, to aid the transition between statistical results, epidemiologic insight and policy decisions.”

Five research teams detected anomalous rates of pediatric cancers using different epidemiological and statistical methodology on a data set spanning the period 2000 -2010.  The data was provided by the Florida Association of Pediatric Tumor Programs (FAPTP) a consortium of diagnosis and treatment centers that consolidates data for incorporation into the Florida Cancer Data System.

“While the results do not identify a ‘smoking gun’ in the form of a shared environmental exposure in high-incidence areas, the results do provide epidemiologic insight into the local demographics of the incidence of pediatric cancer cases and suggest more detailed assessment of migration patterns in the Miami area,” says Dr. Waller in his review. “Policy-wise, the results point to responsibly responsive next steps of detailed description of the cases and the at-risk population in the detected areas to summarize local features in the data, particularly the race of cases west of the Everglades and demographic descriptors of any shifts in the at-risk population in the Miami area during the study period.”

Waller and team will share their recommendations in a series of five statistical analyses conducted for Science and Public Policy, an open-access, online public-policy journal published by the American Statistical Association (ASA).