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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A design for cancer case-control studies using only incident cases: experience with the GEM study of melanoma.

  • Author(s): Begg, Colin B
  • Hummer, Amanda J
  • Mujumdar, Urvi
  • Armstrong, Bruce K
  • Kricker, Anne
  • Marrett, Loraine D
  • Millikan, Robert C
  • Gruber, Stephen B
  • Culver, Hoda Anton
  • Zanetti, Roberto
  • Gallagher, Richard P
  • Dwyer, Terrence
  • Rebbeck, Timothy R
  • Busam, Klaus
  • From, Lynn
  • Berwick, Marianne
  • GEM Study Group
  • et al.

BACKGROUND: The population-based case-control study is not suited to the evaluation of rare genetic (or environmental) factors. The use of a novel case-control design in which cases have second primaries and controls are cancer survivors has been proposed for this purpose. METHODS: We report results from an international study of melanoma that involved population-based ascertainment of incident cases of second or subsequent primary melanoma as the 'case' group and incident cases of first primary melanoma as the 'control' group. We evaluate the validity of the study design by comparing the results obtained for phenotypic factors that have been shown consistently to be associated with melanoma in previous conventional studies with the results from a conventional case-control study conducted in Connecticut and from literature reviews. RESULTS: All but one of the known risk factors for melanoma were shown to be significantly associated with melanoma in our study, though the individual odds ratios appear to be somewhat attenuated relative to the magnitudes typically observed in the literature. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with a second or subsequent primary cancer of a single type represent a potentially valuable and under-utilized resource for the study of cancer aetiology.

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