Analysis of rates from disease registers are often reported inadequately because of too coarse tabulation of data and because of confusion about the mechanics of the age-period-cohort model used for analysis. Rates should be considered as observations in a Lexis diagram, and tabulation a necessary reduction of data, which should be as small as possible, and age, period and cohort should be treated as continuous variables. Reporting should include the absolute level of the rates as part of the age-effects. This paper gives a guide to analysis of rates from a Lexis diagram by the age-period-cohort model. Three aspects are considered separately: (1) tabulation of cases and person-years; (2) modelling of age, period and cohort effects; and (3) parametrization and reporting of the estimated effects. It is argued that most of the confusion in the literature comes from failure to make a clear distinction between these three aspects. A set of recommendations for the practitioner is given and a package for R that implements the recommendations is introduced.
Copyright 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.