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By J Ferlay, D M Parkin, P Pisani. ($90.00.) International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1998.
Many of us are familiar with the situation where one needs some epidemiological data on a certain cancer rapidly to finish an introduction for a report or presentation. One ends up copying tables from large complicated epidemiological handbooks and wishing that there were a more sophisticated approach. This is exactly where a program like GLOBOCAN comes in handy.
According to the IARC, “GLOBOCAN is a Windows based software which provides access to a worldwide database of cancer incidence and mortality rates. It has basic graphical capabilities and provides facilities to manipulate these data.” It is meant for “anyone interested in cancer epidemiology and cancer control.” “The information stored is a unique resource, comprising rates of cancer worldwide estimated using methodologies developed in the unit of Descriptive Epidemiology of IARC. In addition, GLOBOCAN permits the estimation of future cancer burden, using time trends and population estimates for any country or area in the world.”
Installation under Windows 98 is easy and an icon is placed in a subdirectory of the IARC directory. After installation, it is not directly clear how to proceed, but fortunately the help menu does contain a “getting started” section. This turns out to rather brief, there is no manual on the CD, and no examples are given. When we follow the suggestion to begin exploring the GLOBOCAN database using the View option on the menu, we get a menu which allows us to select a geographical region, either incidences or rates, and the option to either select or not select male or female sex. The result is two separate tables for male and female cancer incidences for 23 major sites of cancer, stratified by age. This looks nice so far, but, for example, it is not clear from the table what year is involved. Neither is it clear how to build a table with data for both sexes combined. It appears not to be possible to export tables to a word processor or spreadsheet. At first instance the graph option looks better. The program makes pie or bar charts that cannot be edited afterwards. The possibilities of the right mouse button have not yet been discovered.
Geographical maps with cancer incidences for males or females are presented per country in colour codes. However, apart from the fact that again a combined incidence for males and females cannot be displayed, the graphical presentation is also poor. Country borders are not displayed and a white colour code is even used against a white background.
The graphs cannot be exported to another program other than by copying the active window to the clipboard (Alt+PrtScr).
There are a several additional features such as population pyramids and projections of future cancer incidence rates. Also an option to create reports is available, but once a report is produced in a window, it is not clear how to save the results or export them to a word processor. There is no menu in the Result window. Clicking the right mouse button does yield a pop up menu that has an option “save as,” but after selecting this option, nothing happens.
The conclusion is ambivalent; the initiative is good, and if the standard graphs or tables fulfil your needs it can be a useful program. However, the moment when one wants to do something extra, the limitations of the program are rather obvious. GLOBOCAN could have been exactly what you need, but a great deal of trial and error is needed to work with the program, and in the end you still may not have what you want. This may cause the program to end up unused on the shelf after a couple of frustrating hours.
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