Geographic Analysis of Cancer Registry Data

  • Staff time
  • GIS mapping software/capacity
  • Having staff with experience or expertise in GIS analysis
  • Data to identify areas of high need
  • Can develop targeted interventions for areas with highest need

State health departments can use cancer registry data to map out cancer cases associated with hereditary cancer syndromes such as breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. These results can then be used to identify areas for targeted activities for the public, providers, and health systems. Some health departments developed maps that overlay hereditary cancer cases with additional data, such as location of health systems that offer cancer genetic services, to identify areas of high need that lack adequate genetic services. Note that the availability of telegenetics, or genetic counseling and testing delivered through telehealth services, may not be captured using these methods.


Michigan used cancer registry data to map locations of cancer cases associated with hereditary cancer syndromes to identify the counties with the highest incidence of hereditary cancers. Michigan overlaid those maps with data on the use of genetic counseling, which the state collected through its Hereditary Cancer Network Database. Combining these maps allowed the health department to identify counties with the highest burden of cancers associated with hereditary cancer syndromes but the lowest use of genetic counseling. The resources required to create these maps included staff time, GIS mapping software and trainings for staff, and access to additional data to overlay on the maps. The mapping activities allowed Michigan to offer provider trainings at health systems where they were most needed and health communication messages to the public. In addition, Michigan developed and disseminated resources for providers and health systems across the state on how and where to refer patients for genetic services.