A flexible parametric approach to examining spatial variation in relative survival

Susanna M. Cramb, Kerrie L. Mengersen, Paul C. Lambert, Louise M. Ryan, Peter D. Baade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most of the few published models used to obtain small-area estimates of relative survival are based on a generalized linear model with piecewise constant hazards under a Bayesian formulation. Limitations of these models include the need to artificially split the time scale, restricted ability to include continuous covariates, and limited predictive capacity. Here, an alternative Bayesian approach is proposed: a spatial flexible parametric relative survival model. This overcomes previous limitations by combining the benefits of flexible parametric models: the smooth, well-fitting baseline hazard functions and predictive ability, with the Bayesian benefits of robust and reliable small-area estimates. Both spatially structured and unstructured frailty components are included. Spatial smoothing is conducted using the intrinsic conditional autoregressive prior. The model was applied to breast, colorectal, and lung cancer data from the Queensland Cancer Registry across 478 geographical areas. Advantages of this approach include the ease of including more realistic complexity, the feasibility of using individual-level input data, and the capacity to conduct overall, cause-specific, and relative survival analysis within the same framework. Spatial flexible parametric survival models have great potential for exploring small-area survival inequalities, and we hope to stimulate further use of these models within wider contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5448-5463
Number of pages16
JournalStatistics in Medicine
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


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