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Susan T.

Williams
Geog 597K
Lesson 4
This report aims to critically evaluate two maps produced during this course. For this
activity, I selected maps created during Lesson 4 which involved liver disease incidence
in Northern England and breast cancer rates in the United States.

Figure 1: Incidence of angiosarcoma in Northern England from 1980 to 2000. The red
dots represent cases of individuals diagnosed with angiosarcoma, whereas the gray
dots represent healthy controls, in relation to a waste incinerator which has emitted
PVC as fumes. Data provided by Dr. Peter Diggle of Lancaster University and used here
for educational purposes only.
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At first glance, it appears that there is indeed a correlation between the location of the
waste incinerator and the cluster of confirmed cases of angiosarcoma. However, there
are still many unanswered questions from this map. It is possible that certain points
could be overlapping, stacked on top of one another and are thus not entirely visible to
the eye. It is also unclear as to whether the cases are actual residential locations of the
patients or rather the physicians office at which the patient was diagnosed.
Furthermore, it is unknown as to whether this data has been aggregated or smoothed in
a way that may skew the point locations and therefore alter any conclusions drawn from
visual inspection. On the other hand, if these points are actual patient locations, their
confidentiality could be somewhat at risk.
This map is fairly straightforward and easy to comprehend, but would benefit from the
following improvements:

Clipping the cases and controls to the extent of the Northeast Boundary to
enhance the appearance and reduce visual clutter.
Details about the data source(s) and how it was manipulated for display, if at
all.
Including additional points of reference such as city names or catchment
boundaries would help better orient the user.
A different type of map display should be investigated to see if patient
confidentiality could be protected even further.

With some of those points in mind, I produced a point density map with the same data
for Figure 2.
Figure 2: Point Density
Map of Angiosarcoma
incidence in Northern
England from 1980 to
2000. The darker red
areas represent a
greater number of
cases, whereas the
lighter colored areas
represent fewer cases of
angiosarcoma, in
relation to a waste
incinerator which has
emitted PVC as fumes.
Data provided by Dr.
Peter Diggle of
Lancaster University and
used here for
educational purposes
only.

Although this map is more effective than the previous map (Figure 1) at protecting
patient confidentiality and eliminating the issue of points rendered invisible through
overlapping, there are still several possible recommendations for further
improvement, including:

Clipping the point density surface to the extent of the Northeast Boundary
would enhance the visual appearance.
Including additional points of reference such as city names or catchment
boundaries would help better orient the user.
Some experimentation with the classification intervals is worth investigating
to verify that no data is being obscured or otherwise skewed erroneously.
A similar map displaying the control cases would be beneficial for
comparison.

Another map produced during this course was a choropleth map displaying female
breast cancer rates for the contiguous U.S.A. from 1970 to 1994. See Figure 3 on the
next page.

Figure 3: Choropleth map displaying breast cancer rates by county among females in the contiguous USA from 1970 to 1994. Rates
below the national average are shown in cooler colors while rates above the national average are shown in warmer colors. Data
provided by the National Atlas of the United States of America and the U.S. Geological Survey and used here for educational purposes
only.

Since this map is aggregated at the county level, the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem
should be taken into consideration. Also, the use of color must be done carefully so as
not to draw too much or too little attention to specific areas simply because of the color
itself.
Some suggestions for improving the quality of this map include:
Use of the smallest areal units possible to minimize the aggregation effect while
still preserving patient confidentiality
Including additional points of reference such as state and city names would help
better orient the user.
Some experimentation with the classification intervals is worth investigating to
verify that no data is being obscured or otherwise skewed erroneously.
In conclusion, there is no such thing as a perfect map and users should always be
aware of limitations. An understanding of those limitations can help geospatial analysts
create maps that are best for their intended purpose.