Background: The pathway from potential hazards in the work environment to the measurement or estimation of personal exposure for epidemiologic studies comprises many steps, each of which can be influenced by factors that may or may not differ by gender. This article explores this pathway to address the question, "Should the potential for gender differences be taken into account in the activity of exposure assessment for epidemiologic studies?"
Methods: Evidence from previously published studies and data from the investigators' own research were examined to explore whether or not several theoretical sources of gender 'bias' in exposure assessment have been found in actual studies. Sources of bias examined included: differences in job tasks despite same job titles; differences in delivered exposure due to differences in protective equipment, body size, or other relationships to exposure sources; and differences in estimated exposure arising from study methods or design.
Results and conclusions: Evidence was found for gender differences (and thus potential bias) from all these sources, at least in some studies. We conclude that the answer to the question posed, "Does gender matter, in exposure assessment for epidemiology?" is a qualified 'yes,' but that the magnitude and direction of the potential bias cannot be predicted, a priori. Am. J. Ind. Med. 44:576-583, 2003.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.