While working as a spatial statistician at the National Cancer Institute during her sabbatical in 2007, Monica Jackson learned of a troubling trend: in 2005, mammography-screening rates in the United States had dropped for women over 40.
The AU statistics professor and a handful of other National Cancer Institute researchers decided to investigate the decrease in screening rates. They wanted to discover which factors determine whether or not women get mammograms. So they launched a spatial statistical study of mammography-screening rates in California—a state they chose because its women had comparatively consistent mammography rates over the past several years.
Their findings? Women in urban areas had higher screening rates and were more likely to get a mammogram no matter how far away a screening facility was, while rural women were influenced by the number of nearby screening facilities.
The research and publication process took roughly 2 years. Jackson served as lead researcher on a team that included statisticians, econometrics experts, and graduate student William Waldron, MS statistics '08. The group analyzed a set of data from 33,000 women that included data from a California Health Interview survey and Census data about income, education, and other socioeconomic factors. They then compared it against the FDA's list of the state's mammography screening facilities and their locations. The team recently published their findings in journal Cancer Causes and Control, and they were also featured on Breastcancer.net.
Even though the research is done, Jackson says that the work is not over. She hopes that her work has opened the door for follow-up research that aims to explain the disparity between mammography screenings for rural women and urban women.