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, 171 (5), 602-8

A Proposed Method to Adjust for Selection Bias in Cohort Studies

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A Proposed Method to Adjust for Selection Bias in Cohort Studies

Anna Törner et al. Am J Epidemiol.

Abstract

Selection bias is a concern in cohort studies in which selection into the cohort is related to the studied outcome. An example is chronic infection with hepatitis C virus, where the initial infection may be asymptomatic for decades. This problem leads to selection of more severely ill individuals into registers of such infections. Cohort studies often adjust for this bias by introducing a time window between entry into the cohort and entry into the study. This paper describes and assesses a novel method to improve adjustment for this type of selection bias. The size of the time window is decided by calculating a standardized incidence ratio as a continuous function of the size of the time window. The resulting graph is used to decide on an appropriate window size. The method is evaluated by using the Swedish register of hepatitis C virus infections for 1990-2006. The complications studied were non-Hodgkin lymphoma and liver cancer. Selection bias differed for the studied outcomes, and a time window of a minimum of 2 months and 12 months, respectively, was judged to be appropriate. The novel method may have advantages compared with an interval-based method, especially in cohort studies with small numbers of events.

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