A Bayesian model for cluster detection


The detection of areas in which the risk of a particular disease is significantly elevated, leading to an excess of cases, is an important enterprise in spatial epidemiology. Various frequentist approaches have been suggested for the detection of ‘clusters’ within a hypothesis testing framework. Unfortunately, these suffer from a number of drawbacks including the difficulty in specifying a p-value threshold at which to call significance, the inherent multiplicity problem, and the possibility of multiple clusters. In this paper, we suggest a Bayesian approach to detecting ‘areas of clustering’ in which the study region is partitioned into, possibly multiple, ‘zones’ within which the risk is either at a null, or non-null, level. Computation is carried out using Markov chain Monte Carlo, tuned to the model that we develop. The method is applied to leukemia data in upstate New York.

In Biostatistics.