The application of trend surface models to the analysis of time factors in Swiss cancer mortality

Cesare Cislaghi, Eva Negri, Carlo La Vecchia, Fabio Levi

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To study different temporal components on cancer mortality (age, period and cohort) methods of graphic representation were applied to Swiss mortality data from 1950 to 1984. Maps using continuous slopes ("contour maps") and based on eight tones of grey according to the absolute distribution of rates were used to represent the surfaces defined by the matrix of various age-specific rates. Further, progressively more complex regression surface equations were defined, on the basis of two independent variables (age/cohort) and a dependent one (each age-specific mortality rate). General patterns of trends in cancer mortality were thus identified, permitting definition of important cohort (e.g., upwards for lung and other tobaccorelated neoplasms, or downwards for stomach) or period (e.g., downwards for intestines or thyroid cancers) effects, besides the major underlying age component. For most cancer sites, even the lower order (1st to 3rd) models utilised provided excellent fitting, allowing immediate identification of the residuals (e.g., high or low mortality points) as well as estimates of first-order interactions between the three factors, although the parameters of the main effects remained still undetermined. Thus, the method should be essentially used as summary guide to illustrate and understand the general patterns of age, period and cohort effects in (cancer) mortality, although they cannot conceptually solve the inherent problem of identifiability of the three components.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-373
Number of pages15
JournalSozial- und Präventivmedizin SPM
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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