The Big C – visualising the killer disease's impact

This infographic comes from the Health & Science pages of today’s Sydney Morning Herald, which features an interesting feature on pancreatic cancer.

Accompanying the story is the infographic below. At first I found it a little confusing as I tried to decode it moving from top to bottom when in fact you need to start at the bottom, register the key and scan upwards. Overall, I think its an effective way of showing the deadliness of different forms of cancer, but would it have been more effective to rank them from most deadly to least deadly, or most number of new cases to least number of new cases separating out the male and female data in different sets? What do you think?

Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Source: Sydney Morning Herald


  1. Brent Jackson

    The “1st for women” and “1st for men” captions definitely muddy the waters. They needn’t have done that, and just ordered it on totals. They could still have added “(1st for women)” and ‘(1st for men)” in brackets for Breast and Prostrate Cancer if they wanted to highlight these as special cases.

  2. Aimee Whitcroft

    And yes – I think they should have split out male and female, and ranked in order of most to least cases/deaths per year (I’m still undecided as to which would be more useful, frankly). Perhaps it might have been better to show number of new cases per year and associated fatality rate (rather than simply deaths)? It would give a more accurate idea of which cancers are the most deadly…

  3. Aimee Whitcroft

    I agree too. Infographics should only take a moment to figure out – something not a characteristic of this particular graphic… I thought the pink denoted women and the black, men, at first!

  4. Evan

    I have to agree with you on that one Peter.

    I found myself constantly having to look down at the key to make out what was being represented.

    After staring at it for half an hour I keep ‘seeing’ it differently. But maybe that’s just me!

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