Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Danning Chen's Profile

E-mail: dumiich@gmail.com

Danning Chen is a second-year graduate student studying public policy in Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon University. She originally came from Fuzhou, China almost two years ago. Fascinated by the applications of data visualization to public policy and open government, she is looking for the opportunity to gain hands-on experience as a policy analyst after graduating in May, 2013.

Danning Chen's Recent Posts

Data viz: whiteness, not latitude, tied to skin cancer rates

April 9th, 2013

U.S. states with the highest skin cancer rates tend to have a high proportion of whites in their population while those with the lowest rates don’t. And the top two states for skin cancer, Vermont and Utah, feature especially high concentrations – compared to others – of young whites, age 18 to 24. These are a few of the correlations evident from the most recent annual skin cancer rates across the U.S., for 2009, and some of the demographic risk factors identified in scientific research. The official “white/non-Hispanic” population is 80 percent-plus in seven of the top ten skin cancer states, versus only one of the bottom ten. Three of the top ten were in the Northwest: Idaho fifth, Washington sixth and Oregon tied for seventh. Exposure to ultraviolet rays from both sun and tanning beds is considered a major risk factor for skin cancer, but sunny climes alone don’t appear to be a determinant. States typically bathed in ultraviolet rays such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona were in the bottom quintile for skin cancer. You can further explore the data in the visualization below.

(Additional user tips: You can hover over the dot in each state for all three data points. To quickly rank states, hover over any of the three column headers in chart, then slide cursor to longest of the adjacent horizontal bars and click for a descending sort.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with 61,646 melanomas of the skin diagnosed in 2009, and 9,199 attributed deaths. According to research published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in 2012, skin cancer costs approximately $1.7 billion to treat annually in the U.S. and results in $3.8 billion in lost productivity. The National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2011-2012 Update notes younger adults and men are less likely to apply forms of sun protection, as are adults with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level. Another risk group is young white women prone to use of indoor tanning beds.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Washington combined cancer rates tops in western counties

March 15th, 2013

Five years of data from the National Cancer Institute’s State Cancer Profiles database show that within Washington state, the overall rate of cancer is highest in western counties and lowest in rural and eastern counties. From 2005 through 2009 it was highest in Mason County, at an annual average rate of 554.6 cases per 100,000 population versus 476 per 100,000 across the whole state. Among the state’s 39 counties the rest of the top 10 for 2005-2009 in overall cancer rate, in order, are Grays Harbor, Whatcom, Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit, Thurston Jefferson, Cowlitz and Kitsap. King County ranked 13th. Lowest overall cancer rates were, in order, in the counties of Klickitat, Skamania, Garfield, Asotin and Ferry. Hover over any Washington county in the mapped visualization below to get its overall – known as “all types” – cancer rate, and also use the pull-down menu to select mapped data by Washington county on rates of breast, lung and prostate cancer. A tab atop the map also provides access to U.S. cancer rates by state, for 2009. As we reported recently, Washington ranked 13th among 50 states in the “all types” rate in 2009, but first in breast cancer.

For breast cancer by county in Washington for 2005-09, Walla Walla County had the highest annual average rate, 159.4 diagnosed cases per 100,000 population. It was followed by the counties of Mason, Cowlitz, Snohomish, Whatcom, King and Thurston. Douglas County had the highest rate of prostate cancer, followed by San Juan, Chelan and Whitman. Grays Harbor County had far and away the highest rate of cancer of the lung and bronchus.

Contributing to the “all types” rates, according to NCI, are “all invasive cancer sites combined, bladder, breast, brain, cervix, childhood cancers all sites combined, colon and rectum, esophagus, kidney, leukemias, liver and bile duct, lung and bronchus, melanomas of the skin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, oral cavity and pharynx, ovary, pancreas, prostate, stomach, thyroid, and uterus.”

(UPDATE: Why one county has a higher rate than another is hard to determine precisely. However in a backgrounder the Washington State Department of Health notes that cancer risk factors include exposure to tobacco and second-hand smoke, excessive alcohol use, excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds, lack of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, unhealthy weight, physical inactivity, and not regularly seeking medical care. Additionally, the National Cancer Institute provides an online collection of fact sheets on risks related to different types of cancer.)

An average annual count of newly-diagnosed cancer cases in each jurisdiction, along with official population data and other statistical and methodological controls are used to develop the rates. More details are available under the links titled, “Interpret,” “About This Table” and “Quick Reference Guide” at the NCI State Cancer Profiles chart for Washington state “all types” rates by county.


Assistance on the data visualization provided by Mike Klaczynski. Additional reporting by Matt Rosenberg. Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.


WA led U.S. in breast cancer, for most recent year reported

March 12th, 2013

Recently-updated data from the National Cancer Institute’s State Cancer Profiles database show that for incidence of breast cancer in the most recent year for which data are currently available, 2009, Washington ranked highest in the United States with a rate of 139.20 reported cases per 100,000 population. It was followed by Connecticut, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota. For prostate cancer Louisiana, Utah and Georgia ranked highest and for lung cancer, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Maine. Looking at overall rates of cancer, seven of ten states with highest rates in the United States were in the Northeast. The top 10 in order, were Connecticut, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Maine, Iowa, New York, New Jersey, Vermont. Washington ranked 13th of 49 states (data for Wisconsin was not available), with 474.5 cases of cancer per 100,000 population. Select from the four visualizations accessible below to compare state cancer rates in 2009 – for all types combined, plus breast, prostate and lung cancer. Contributing to the “all types” rates, according to NCI, are “all invasive cancer sites combined, bladder, breast, brain, cervix, childhood cancers all sites combined, colon and rectum, esophagus, kidney, leukemias, liver and bile duct, lung and bronchus, melanomas of the skin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, oral cavity and pharynx, ovary, pancreas, prostate, stomach, thyroid, and uterus.”

According to a recent article in the U.S. Centers For Disease Control’s journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, the overall cancer rate in the U.S. in 2009 was higher for men than women; and among racial groups was highest among African-Americans and lowest among Native Americans/Alaska Natives.

An article last fall in the National Cancer Institute Bulletin cites research that increased breast cancer screening since the 1970s has resulted in some cases being diagnosed which posed no risk to the subjects.

Related Findings
At the same time, research continues into various factors which may contribute to breast cancer risk. Work published last year by Seattle researchers from Group Health Cooperative and the University of Washington included detailed data from electronic pharmacy records of women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and found that use of certain types of oral contraceptives within the year prior to diagnosis may increase that risk for women aged 20 to 49. (UPDATE – Another recent study, from the National Cancer Institute, accents the connection between regular alcohol consumption prior to first pregnancy, and breast cancer risk.)

More information on breast cancer risk factors is provided by the American Cancer Society.


Assistance on the data visualization provided by Mike Klaczynski. Additional reporting by Matt Rosenberg. Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.