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Investigating spatial variations in cancer incidence rates using geographic information systems.

   School of Medicine, Dentistry & Biomedical Sciences

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  Dr Dan Middleton, Prof Helen Coleman  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

An interdisciplinary PhD project using geographic information systems (GIS) data-driven approaches to investigate geospatial patterns in cancer incidence and their possible underlying environmental determinants to inform primary prevention. Suitable for backgrounds in epidemiology or public health motivated to learn practical GIS skills, or environmental sciences motivated to learn epidemiology. 

Many cancers exhibit unique geographic patterns which may be underpinned by environmental factors. An abundance of data exists of cancer registrations and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) variables – a potentially untapped source of aetiological clues. The aim of the work undertaken by the candidate will be to use GIS to investigate spatial patterns in cancer incidence and generate and explore different hypotheses of their environmental causes. This will be achieved by: (i) training in cancer epidemiology and/or GIS applications; (ii) exploring spatial associations between rates of specific cancers and established risk factors, such as lung cancer and radon in the UK and Ireland; (iii) generating subtype-specific oesophageal cancer atlases for the UK and Ireland and comparing distributions between urban and rural populations and assessing whether geospatial factors contribute to their distributions; (iv) using soil and water geochemistry datasets, determining whether exposure to potentially harmful elements, or deficiencies of essential micronutrients are spatially associated with rates of different cancers; and (v) identifying available datasets to perform analyses of the geospatial distributions of different cancers, highlighting those whose aetiology remains unexplained. The candidate will additionally benefit from collaborations with the British Geological Survey and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC/WHO).

Funding eligibility: ROI (and EU applicants with pre-settled/settled) status may be eligible for funding. Please review the DfE T&C’s.


You must hold or expect to get an upper second class honours degree from a university in the UK or Ireland, or qualifications and experience considered by the University as equivalent to that standard. Candidates who already hold a doctoral degree, or who have registered on a PhD for one year (or part-time equivalent) or not eligible. 

English Language 

Candidates applying from countries where the first language is not English should produce evidence of their competence through a qualification such as IELTS or TOEFL score. 

The minimum recommended score for the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science is:

·        IELTS score of 6.0 with not less than 5.5 in each of the four component elements of listening, reading, speaking and writing taken within the last 2 years;

·        TOEFL score of 80+ (internet basted test), taken within the last 2 years, with minimum component scores of; Listening 17, Reading 18, Speaking 20, Writing 17);

·        A valid Certificate of Proficiency in English grade A or B;

·        A valid Certificate of Advanced English grade A; or

·        A first or upper second class honours degree from a university based in the UK, Republic of Ireland or other suitably quality assured location in a country deemed by the UK Border Agency to be majority English speaking. 

For a list of English Language qualifications also accepted by the School and University please see the following link: 

INTO Queen’s English Language Courses offers both pre-sessional and in-sessional courses in English for academic purposes and study skills. Courses vary in length and full information can be obtained at:

Funding Notes

Funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE). For UK domiciled students the value of an award includes the cost of approved tuition fees and maintenance support (Fees £4,596 Stipend £16,062 for 2022/23). To be considered eligible you must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the full 3 year period prior to the start of the studentship and you must be ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland on the first day of the start of the studentship. For further information about eligibility criteria please refer to the DfE Postgraduate Studentship Terms and Conditions 2021-22 at


Please visit the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Centre for Public Health, website for further details about the Centre:
Please click on the 'Apply Now' button to apply.
When applying, please choose 'MEDICINE' as your subject area/School
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