Impact of losses to follow-up on diet/alcohol and lung cancer analyses in the New York State Cohort

Nutr Cancer. 2002;42(1):41-7. doi: 10.1207/S15327914NC421_6.


The main objective of the study was to evaluate whether passive surveillance methods can be used in cohort studies without a significant distortion of risk estimates when the active follow-up of every participant is not possible. A nested case-control study including 525 lung cancer cases and 525 controls was conducted among participants of the New York State Cohort Study (n = 57,968 men and women), which allowed the active follow-up of a sample of the cohort and the assessment of the effect of losses to follow-up. Although there were some differences with respect to dietary intake between controls lost to follow-up and those located, the results of the nested case-control study including and excluding losses to follow-up were comparable. Moreover, the results derived from the passive and the active follow-up data were similar. Our findings lent credence to passive follow-up methods and suggested that losses to follow-up did not compromise the validity of the study. Although attempts to trace every participant are preferable in a cohort study, passive surveillance may yield unbiased risk estimates when a rare disease is being investigated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York