Tracing a Path to the Past: Exploring the Use of Commercial Credit Reporting Data to Construct Residential Histories for Epidemiologic Studies of Environmental Exposures

Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Feb 1;185(3):238-246. doi: 10.1093/aje/kww108.


Large-scale environmental epidemiologic studies often rely on exposure estimates based on linkage to residential addresses. This approach, however, is limited by the lack of residential histories typically available for study participants. Our objective was to evaluate the feasibility of using address data from LexisNexis (a division of RELX, Inc., Dayton, Ohio), a commercially available credit reporting company, to construct residential histories for participants in the California Teachers Study (CTS), a prospective cohort study initiated in 1995-1996 to study breast cancer (n = 133,479). We evaluated the degree to which LexisNexis could provide retrospective addresses prior to study enrollment, as well as the concordance with existing prospective CTS addresses ascertained at the time of the completion of 4 self-administered questionnaires. For approximately 80% of CTS participants, LexisNexis provided at least 1 retrospective address, including nearly 25,000 addresses completely encompassed by time periods prior to enrollment. This approach more than doubled the proportion of the study population for whom we had an address of residence during the childbearing years-an important window of susceptibility for breast cancer risk. While overall concordance between the prospective addresses contained in these 2 data sources was good (85%), it was diminished among black women and women under the age of 40 years.

Keywords: data collection; environmental epidemiology; residential history; residential mobility; validation studies.

MeSH terms

  • Accounting*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • California
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Demography
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult