Discrete versus continuous domain models for disease mapping

Garyfallos Konstantinoudis, Dominic Schuhmacher, Haavard Rue, Ben D. Spycher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The main goal of disease mapping is to estimate disease risk and identify high-risk areas. Such analyses are hampered by the limited geographical resolution of the available data. Typically the available data are counts per spatial unit and the common approach is the Besag–York–Mollié (BYM) model. When precise geocodes are available, it is more natural to use Log-Gaussian Cox processes (LGCPs). In a simulation study mimicking childhood leukaemia incidence using actual residential locations of all children in the canton of Zürich, Switzerland, we compare the ability of these models to recover risk surfaces and identify high-risk areas. We then apply both approaches to actual data on childhood leukaemia incidence in the canton of Zürich during 1985-2015. We found that LGCPs outperform BYM models in almost all scenarios considered. Our findings suggest that there are important gains to be made from the use of LGCPs in spatial epidemiology.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100319
JournalSpatial and Spatio-temporal Epidemiology
StatePublished - Dec 11 2019


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