“The circles have radii of 6 and 15 miles. Census tracts comprise the basis of analysis, so the rates for the circles are rates of combined census tracts whose outer borders correspond as closely as possible to the circles. The average annual rates are based on the period 1988 – 1993.”

The result of work done by the recent Suffolk County Environmental Task Force. An unexpected finding is that the age-adjusted breast cancer incidence rate on the South Fork, 143 cases per 100,000 women per year, is significantly elevated compared with western Suffolk County and compared with itself 10 years ago.

The South Fork breast cancer rate during the 1980’s was approximately 72 per 100,000 women per year, so, during the 1990’s the rate has doubled. (Population growth and changes in age structure are taken into account in computing rates, so these factors are not a “cause” of the increased rate.)

The Suffolk County Health Department independently confirmed this observation and showed that most of the increase in the rate reflected relatively more diagnoses of breast cancer among younger women.

The Health Department is preparing to fund a study to determine why the South Fork experienced such a large increase in the number of breast cancers among its residents. (Further discussion of this pattern is provided in the Task Force’s epidemiology report which is available from Dr. Roger Grimson, Department of Preventive Medicine, University at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY.) Interview with Dr. Roger.

Breast cancer rates for other nearby regions are provided on the map. The horizontal lines below the map indicate regions of Long Island and their rates. For instance, Suffolk County’s rate is 110 cases per 100,000 women per year (second of the three lines).

Comparisons of rates among different states and with the USA (SEER sampling areas) need to be interpreted with caution.

Efforts are currently underway to foster uniformity among the various states’ methods of calculating rates regarding the role of in situ cancers, second primary tumors and tumor recurrences. Currently, small differences in state rates (but not rates within a state) may be attributed to differences in the way states count these events.

$4.8 Million LI Breast Cancer Mapping Project
In May 1999, more than five years after Congress ordered it to do so, the National Cancer Institute finally approved the development of a $4.8 million computerized map of environmental problems and breast cancer cases on Long Island.

Researchers said the geographic information system (GIS) will be by far the most ambitious of its type ever attempted in the U.S. When completed in an estimated two years, the system will allow researchers to look for links between cancer rates and pollution sources neighborhood-by-neighborhood in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

This is good news, long in coming – in fact, there would be no GIS if it weren’t for the breast cancer mapping that Lorraine Pace started in 1992 in her home, before founding Breast Cancer Help!

For more information, or to find out how you can help with the vital mapping projects, please call these coalitions.

LI Breast Cancer Coalitions Currently Involved in Breast Cancer Mapping
Brentwood/Bay Shore Breast Cancer Coalition
(745) 115-4521

Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition
(745) 612-4452

North Fork Breast Health Coalition
(745) 800-2560

South Fork Breast Health Coalition
(745) 845-1023

Town of Islip Breast Cancer Coalition
(745) 475-4120