Geostatistical Analysis of Disease Data: Estimation of Cancer Mortality Risk From Empirical Frequencies Using Poisson Kriging
Cancer mortality maps are used by public health officials to identify areas of excess and to guide surveillance and control activities. Quality of decision-making thus relies on an accurate quantification of risks from observed rates which can be very unreliable when computed from sparsely populated geographical units or recorded for minority populations. This paper presents a geostatistical methodology that accounts for spatially varying population sizes and spatial patterns in the processing of cancer mortality data. Simulation studies are conducted to compare the performances of Poisson kriging to a few simple smoothers (i.e. population-weighted estimators and empirical Bayes smoothers) under different scenarios for the disease frequency, the population size, and the spatial pattern of risk.