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Biom J. 2008 Aug;50(4):608-19. doi: 10.1002/bimj.200710430.

An age-stratified poisson model for comparing trends in cancer rates across overlapping regions.

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  • 1Department of Biostatistics, Harvard University and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney Street, LW211 Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The annual percent change (APC) has been used as a measure to describe the trend in the age-adjusted cancer incidence or mortality rate over relatively short time intervals. The yearly data on these age-adjusted rates are available from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute. The traditional methods to estimate the APC is to fit a linear regression of logarithm of age-adjusted rates on time using the least squares method or the weighted least squares method, and use the estimate of the slope parameter to define the APC as the percent change in the rates between two consecutive years. For comparing the APC for two regions, one uses a t-test which assumes that the two datasets on the logarithm of the age-adjusted rates are independent and normally distributed with a common variance. Two modifications of this test, when there is an overlap between the two regions or between the time intervals for the two datasets have been recently developed. The first modification relaxes the assumption of the independence of the two datasets but still assumes the common variance. The second modification relaxes the assumption of the common variance also, but assumes that the variances of the age-adjusted rates are obtained using Poisson distributions for the mortality or incidence counts. In this paper, a unified approach to the problem of estimating the APC is undertaken by modeling the counts to follow an age-stratified Poisson regression model, and by deriving a corrected Z -test for testing the equality of two APCs. A simulation study is carried out to assess the performance of the test and an application of the test to compare the trends, for a selected number of cancer sites, for two overlapping regions and with varied degree of overlapping time intervals is presented.

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