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Science Olympiad» Disease Detectives Event » National Event Exercises
Skin Cancer Module: Practice Exercises

Skin Cancer: Module 5
Age-adjusted Mortality Rates Exercise

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Question 1: Define "mortality" as used in this chart.

Answer: This chart shows the number of deaths due to lung and bronchus cancer in a given year, divided by the number of the people in the population. The rates are "age-adjusted." [This lets us generalize from the SEER data to the standard US population in 1970.]

 

Question 2: What year had the highest overall (male+female) age-adjusted mortality rate from lung cancer? The highest mortality rate for men? For women? How might you explain these differences?

Answer: The period from 1990–1993 had the highest overall rates of lung and bronchus cancer for men and women combined. [The combined mortality rate has remained the same or slightly declined since then.] The highest mortality rate from this cancer for men was seen in 1987–1990. [Mortality has since gone down somewhat.] The highest mortality rate from this cancer for women was seen in 1998. [Given the steady upward trend, mortality from this cancer has probably continued to go up.] When explaining these differences, answers may vary. But they should include—

  • changing social norms regarding women smoking and
  • more targeting of women by tobacco companies.

 

Question 3: Compare and contrast the trends in age-adjusted incidence rates of lung and bronchus cancer with the trends in age-adjusted mortality rates for this cancer. (Refer to the data on age-adjusted incidence rates in Exercise A above.) Would you expect the two graphs to be similar? What can comparing these two graphs tell you about how treatable or how fatal a given disease is?

Answer: The line charts show that incidence rates and mortality rates are similar. They also show that their trends run parallel to one another. This suggests two things:

  • The disease is not often treated successfully.
  • The disease is highly fatal.

Using these charts, we can see that there have been no major advances in treatment or detection of lung and bronchus cancer. If successful new treatments were in use, the mortality rate would go down. If detection efforts were catching the disease at an earlier, more curable stage, the mortality rate would again reflect that.

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This page last reviewed August 27, 2004

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