Estimability and estimation in case-referent studies

Am J Epidemiol. 1976 Feb;103(2):226-35. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a112220.


The concepts that case-referent studies provide for the estimation of "relative risk" only if the illness is "rare", and that the rates and risks themselves are inestimable, are overly superficial and restrictve. The ratio of incidence densities (forces of morbidity)-and thereby the instantaneous risk-ratio-is estimable without any rarity-assumption. Long-term risk-ratio can be computed through the coupling of case-referent data on exposure rates for various age-categories with estimates, possibly from the study itself, or the corresponding age-specific incidence-densities for the exposed and nonexposed combined-but again, no rarity-assumption is involved. Such data also provide for the assessment of exposure-specific absolute incidence-rates and risks. Point estimation of the various parameters can be based on simple relationships among them, and in interval estimation it is sufficient simply to couple the point estimate with the value of the chi square statistic used in significance testing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Statistics as Topic