Record linkage to conduct an epidemiologic study on the association of rheumatoid arthritis and lymphoma in the Province of Saskatchewan, Canada

J Clin Epidemiol. 1993 Jul;46(7):685-95. doi: 10.1016/0895-4356(93)90049-7.


The objective of this effort was to assess the utility of the large automated database in Saskatchewan as a resource for pharmacoepidemiologic studies. To this end a study was undertaken to test the hypothesis that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) increases the risk of cancer, especially lymphoma. This was done by performing a retrospective cohort study based on record linkage data from Saskatchewan Health. From hospital discharge diagnoses in the hospital file an exposed group (RA) and two comparison groups matched to the RA group by age and sex were identified: (1) the RA group consisted of people with a discharge diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis; (2) the osteoarthritis (OA) group consisted of people with OA discharge diagnoses; and (3) a comparison (CN) group consisted of hospitalized people with no discharge diagnoses of arthritis. Drug exposures were determined by linkage with the Prescription Drug File, cancer outcomes were determined by linkage with the Cancer Foundation file, and length of eligibility in the health plan and demographics information were determined by linkage with the registration file. The data were checked for quality of linkages across files and consistency with study definitions. Of 13,333 identified subjects, 2.8% were excluded because of apparent incorrect assignment to study group or age group or because of ineligibility in health plan during the study period. In order to decrease the possibility of misclassification of exposure (rheumatoid arthritis), hospital discharge diagnoses were used to exclude subjects with any inflammatory rheumatic diseases (IRD) from the CN (7.8%) and OA (8.3%) groups and subjects with IRD other than rheumatoid arthritis (4.6%) from the RA group. To decrease selection bias, those who had cancer within 1 year of enrollment (to exclude those in hospital because of symptoms of undiagnosed cancer) were excluded. Because RA subjects hospitalized by a rheumatologist were most likely to have valid rheumatoid arthritis diagnoses, each analysis was run twice: once with the entire RA group (N = 1210) and once with those in the RA group who were rheumatologist-hospitalized (N = 646). Logistic regression of incidence was used to control for age, sex, and use of individual disease-modifying anti-rheumatoid drugs (DMARDs). For the rheumatologist-hospitalized RA group compared to the CN group, a significant 4-fold greater risk for lymphoma/myeloma was detected when DMARD use was not controlled for, and a 3.4-fold increase in risk was detected even when use of individual DMARDs was controlled for.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Bibliographic*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma / etiology*
  • Medical Record Linkage*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Saskatchewan