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Cancer in Philadelphia Neighborhoods

Image of two maps comparing all cancer mortality to the city average of Philadelphia

January 11, 2021

Drexel University’s Urban Health Collaborative, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, and Fox Chase Cancer Center released an interactive data tool called “Cancer in Philadelphia Neighborhoods.” The interactive data tool displays neighborhood maps of cancer, cancer screening and select cancer risk factors in Philadelphia. The tool allows residents to explore and learn more about cancer in their neighborhood.

The project was supported by the Lazarex Cancer Foundation as part of the Community IMPACT project. The goal of Community IMPACT, a collaboration between Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel College of Nursing and Health Professions and Lazarex is to improve understanding and awareness of the burden of cancer on patients and their families, and opportunities for the prevention and treatment of cancer for residents in minority and disadvantaged communities in Philadelphia. The neighborhood interactive tool is the latest in a series of reports focused on cancer including, “The State of Cancer in Philadelphia” and a community brief, “Cancer and Cancer Health Disparities in Philadelphia”.

“Cancer in Philadelphia Neighborhoods,” includes information on all cancers and the most common types of cancer for 46 Philadelphia neighborhoods. The report focuses on cancer incidence, cancer mortality, cancer screening, and risk factors for cancer, such as cigarette smoking. The tools within the site allow users to view risk factors for cancer by neighborhood as well as compare cancer outcomes with associated risk factors. Information on neighborhood cancer outcomes can also be compared to the city average for Philadelphia. The research team used data on cancer cases and deaths from 2000-2016 from the Pennsylvania Department of Health Cancer Registry and the Vital Statistics Registry from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Bureau of Health Statistics & Registries. Risk factor outcomes were analyzed from recent surveys conducted by the Public Health Management Corporation’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.

Results in the data tool indicate that cancer incidence, or rates of newly diagnosed cancers, are high in some Philadelphia neighborhoods compared to the city average. Similar trends are also seen for cancer mortality or death rates for several types of common cancers in some Philadelphia neighborhoods. Although cancer screening rates are generally high across Philadelphia, both cancer risk factors and cancer screening rates differ by neighborhood. These differences could contribute to differences in cancer mortality across neighborhoods.

A multi-faceted approach is needed to prevent cancer development and adequately treat existing cancers across Philadelphia neighborhoods. Both individual-level risk factors (like smoking, diet and physical activity) as well as neighborhood characteristics that allow people to be healthy (such as access to safe spaces for physical activity, affordable health care, and healthy food options) play a role. Policies that promote healthy behaviors, that create and sustain healthy neighborhood environments and that ensure timely access to quality treatments are necessary to reduce neighborhood disparities in cancer. “This report showing how cancer varies across neighborhoods can help guide efforts to prevent cancer and improve cancer survival in our city, we hope it is useful to residents, community leaders, and public health and medical experts,” said report contributor and Urban Health Collaborative Director Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, dean and distinguished professor of Epidemiology at Dornsife School of Public Health.

Engagement with community organizations and leaders across neighborhoods will be important to help make all Philadelphia neighborhoods healthier places to live, and especially to continue to work to reduce social and racial inequities in health across the city.

The information in this interactive data tool will allow residents to explore cancer risk in their neighborhood and can assist public health agencies, policymakers and care providers in making decisions about policies and strategies to reduce the burden of cancer in Philadelphia.

View the interactive site here.