Getting More Local with Cancer Data

Modern approaches provide a close-up view of six types of cancer that impact communities too often

Arizona melanoma by county

Melanoma incidence in Arizona by county.

More than 1.7 million new cases of cancer are reported every year, and that number is expected to grow. We know that more local cancer data can provide a more accurate picture of health outcomes in communities. However, visualizing that data at such a close-up level can be difficult.

Florida breast cancer by county
Florida breast cancer by tract

Breast cancer incidence in Florida by county (top) and by 20,000 population area (bottom). Provided by CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Network Data Explorer.

As part of their ongoing partnership, the National Program of Cancer Registries and the Environmental Public Health Tracking Program worked together to pilot ways to display cancer data for areas smaller than a county. In March 2022, they met their goal.

The first federal release of cancer incidence data at the sub-county level covers six cancer types: lung, female breast, prostate, colorectal, kidney, and melanoma. Future releases will include additional cancer types and additional spatial options. This information can be used to guide efforts to lower the chance that people in a community will get cancer.

Because of this innovative collaboration, researchers, clinicians, policymakers, public health professionals, and members of the public now have access to finer spatial resolution data from 27 cancer registries. Anyone can explore these data on the Tracking Program’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Network.

About the programs

Both the cancer and environmental health teams have continually been at the forefront of data modernization.

The Environmental Public Health Tracking Program tracks over 700 data measures from trusted sources to deliver health, exposure, and hazards data; information summaries; and tools to enable analysis, visualization, and insights. Increased efficiencies in data management have provided on-demand data to the public in a way that saves costs and improves CDC’s internal processing, leading to 33% faster data updates.

The National Program of Cancer Registries funds state and territorial cancer registries to collect cancer data to measure progress, drive action, prevent cancers, and improve treatment for all people. CDC has been developing a cloud-based computer system for central cancer registries, with the goal of providing actionable data in near real time. Getting cancer data faster will give researchers, doctors, lawmakers, public health professionals, and members of the public a more up-to-date picture of cancer trends.