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||Tumor-based case-control studies of infection and cancer: muddling the when and where of molecular epidemiology.
||Engels EA, Wacholder S, Katki HA, Chaturvedi AK
||Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev
||We describe the "tumor-based case-control" study as a type of epidemiologic study used to evaluate associations between infectious agents and cancer. These studies assess exposure using diseased tissues from affected individuals (i.e., evaluating tumor tissue for cancer cases), but they must utilize nondiseased tissues to assess control subjects, who do not have the disease of interest. This approach can lead to exposure misclassification in two ways. First, concerning the "when" of exposure assessment, retrospective assessment of tissues may not accurately measure exposure at the key earlier time point (i.e., during the etiologic window). Second, concerning the "where" of exposure assessment, use of different tissues in cases and controls can have different accuracy for detecting the exposure (i.e., differential exposure misclassification). We present an example concerning the association of human papillomavirus with various cancers, where tumor-based case-control studies likely overestimate risk associated with infection. In another example, we illustrate how tumor-based case-control studies of Helicobacter pylori and gastric cancer underestimate risk. Tumor-based case-control studies can demonstrate infection within tumor cells, providing qualitative information about disease etiology. However, measures of association calculated in tumor-based case-control studies are prone to over- or underestimating the relationship between infections and subsequent cancer risk.