As the most sparsely populated state in the United States, one of Alaska’s primary challenges is finding ways to utilize data in a meaningful way despite small numbers. Because of this, Alaska’s Division of Public Health’s Cancer Control Program often has to stratify by region (rather than the city or county level) and has to combine multiple years of data to allow for comparison among groups. The Alaska Cancer Registry used stratification by Public Health Regions to develop a geospatial analysis of several cancers of interest, including stomach cancer.
Alaska has the 9th highest incidence of stomach cancer in the United States, with an average of about eight cases per 100,000 population, compared to an average of six cases per 100,000 for the U.S. as a whole. When examining stomach cancer incidence for the entire state of Alaska, there are large variations in rates, ranging from six to 29 cases per 100,000. However, a closer look at the data stratified by Alaska’s two largest race groups, White and Alaska Native, illustrates that the varied rate can likely be attributed to the geographic distribution of the Alaska Native population.
These maps highlight a clear health disparity in Alaska, and one that often persists across other types of cancer. The purpose of these types of maps is primarily to educate public health audiences, helping to inform resource and intervention distribution as well as assisting in evaluation efforts.