Geographic Information Systems and Science for Cancer Control

Environmental Exposure

Cancer and other diseases can be triggered by exposure to toxic agents. The presence and concentrations of such agents may vary geographically. Because many cancers develop over a long period of time, knowing the spatial context throughout a person's life is important to understand his or her total exposure to toxic agents. Some cancers are caused by a combination of an underlying genetic abnormality coupled with environmental exposure. Such "gene-environment" interactions further emphasize the importance of spatial context.

Why Spatial Context Matters


Exposure to chemicals in the air can increase cancer risk. Such chemicals include industrial, auto, agricultural, asbestos, and pesticides.


Exposure to chemicals in water can increase cancer risk. Such chemicals include VOCs and arsenic.


Exposure to radiation can increase cancer risk. This includes both naturally occuring ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and man-made radiation from nuclear accidents.

Viruses & Bacteria

Exposure to viruses and bacteria in food can increase cancer risk. Such viruses and bacteria include H. pylori, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis, and HIV.

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