Comparing Trends in Cancer Rates Across Overlapping Regions



Summary Monitoring and comparing trends in cancer rates across geographic regions or over different time periods have been major tasks of the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program as it profiles healthcare quality as well as decides healthcare resource allocations within a spatial–temporal framework. A fundamental difficulty, however, arises when such comparisons have to be made for regions or time intervals that overlap, for example, comparing the change in trends of mortality rates in a local area (e.g., the mortality rate of breast cancer in California) with a more global level (i.e., the national mortality rate of breast cancer). In view of sparsity of available methodologies, this article develops a simple corrected Z-test that accounts for such overlapping. The performance of the proposed test over the two-sample “pooled”t-test that assumes independence across comparison groups is assessed via the Pitman asymptotic relative efficiency as well as Monte Carlo simulations and applications to the SEER cancer data. The proposed test will be important for the SEER * STAT software, maintained by the NCI, for the analysis of the SEER data.