gms | German Medical Science

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007

17. bis 21.09.2007, Augsburg

The spatial relation between cancer incidence and socioeconomic status in Berlin

Meeting Abstract

  • Mandy Schulz - Gemeinsames Krebsregister, Berlin
  • Roland Stabenow - Gemeinsames Krebsregister, Berlin
  • Gerhard Meinlschmidt - Senatsverwaltung für Gesundheit, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz, Berlin

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007. Augsburg, 17.-21.09.2007. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2007. Doc07gmds370

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: September 6, 2007

© 2007 Schulz et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Background: The mapping of spatial disease incidences communicates important information to health professionals, policymakers and the public. The correlation with explanotory variables may provide the base for preventive actions and measures at the community level and for further studies at the individual level.

Methods: Using data of the Common Cancer Registry, diagnosed 2002-2004 in Berlin, case events were referenced to geographical units, so called ‘Planungsräume’, which are small areas of homogeneous internal structure (inhabitants, social class, and housing) with on average 7500 inhabitants per unit. We estimated annualized, age-adjusted incidence rates taking completeness of case finding into account for each unit and computed a standardized incidence ratio (SIR) as a measure of excess risk, which is the ratio of the observed incidence within a unit to the expected incidence taking the overall rate for Berlin. A composite measure of each unit’s socioeconomic status (SES), labeled as social index (SI) and created from basic socioeconomic characteristics [1], was correlated with SIR for total and solid cancers.

Results: Overall, total cancer was increased in the central, southern, and north-western parts of Berlin and this pattern resembled the spatial variation in SI, i.e. the lower the SI the higher the incidence. Among males, cancer rates of lip, oral cavity and pharynx, digestive organs, and lung were significantly inversely correlated with SI with correlation coefficients of -0,27, -0,21, and -0,50, respectively. Prostate cancer was the only entity with a positive correlation with SI (r=0,17, p<0.001). Among women, cancer of the lung (r=-0,22), female genital (r=-0,13) and urinary organs (r=-0,09) showed significant inverse correlations with SI.

Conclusion: SES might be an important contributor to explain spatial variation in cancer incidence in Berlin. However, results need to be interpreted with consideration of the difficulties of adjusting for covariates and estimating completeness of registration, particularly for small areas.


Meinlschmidt G (Hrsg.). Sozialstrukturatlas Berlin 2003. Berlin: Senatsverwaltung für Gesundheit, Soziales und Verbraucherschutz, Spezialbericht 2004-1.