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What Is the True Shape of a Disease Cluster? The Multi-Objective Genetic Scan


Irregularly shaped spatial disease clusters occur commonly in epidemiological studies, but their geographic delineation is poorly defined. Most current spatial scan software usually displays only one of the many possible cluster solutions with different shapes, from the most compact round cluster to the most irregularly shaped one, corresponding to varying degrees of penalization parameters imposed to the freedom of shape. Even when a fairly complete set of solutions is available, the choice of the most appropriate parameter setting is left to the practitioner, whose decision is often subjective.



We propose a novel approach to the delineation of irregularly shaped disease clusters, treating it as a multi-objective optimization problem. We present a new insight into the geographic meaning of the cluster solution set, providing a quantitative approach to the problem of selecting the most appropriate solution among the many possible ones.

Submitted by elamb on