Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2010

Capstone Advisor

Prof. Chris Rohlfs

Honors Reader

Prof. Pete Wilcoxen

Capstone Major


Capstone College


Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Economic History | Economics | Economic Theory | Growth and Development | Health Economics


This paper uses a region-level estimation approach associated with medical procedures to identify the effectiveness of X-ray Computed Axial Tomography (CT) scans as a diagnostic tool in preventing cancer-related deaths. In order to measure the effects of the CT scan on cancer-related deaths, I use data from both the National Health Interview Survey and the Vital Statistics of the United States. For all four regions, we observe an increase in CT scan use after 1979 or, as illustrated specifically in the figure, from 1975 to 1980. All four regions exhibit marked increases in lung cancer-related deaths, very little fluctuation in the number of colon, liver, and stomach cancer-related deaths, and leukemia related deaths remain constant over the observed period; however, the base levels differ from region to region. The key identifying assumption for this study is that no other medical innovations or cancer-reducing policies that were established in a similar time period followed the same pattern as the expansion in use of the CT scan. In order to estimate the effect of the CT scan on select cancer-related death rates, I employ a linear OLS model, with the CT scan as the independent, right-hand side variable and the cancer-related death rate as the dependent, left-hand side variable. In addition, I control for observable characteristics, including a time trend, region fixed effects, and a control for region by year effects. I find statistically significant but suggestive evidence that increased CT scan use can lead to the decrease of lung cancer-related deaths. In addition, I find suggestive evidence that any increase in CT scan use will have no effect on leukemia related deaths. As described above, this finding is expected and confirms my methodology, as CT scans are not typically used to diagnose leukemia. On the other hand, my findings on the effect of CT scan use on colon, liver, and stomach cancer-related deaths is ambiguous. While imprecise, my estimates suggest that the CT scan is indeed an effective diagnostic tool in detecting some types of cancer, leading to a decrease in the number of deaths related to the given cancer.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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