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J Clin Epidemiol. 1999 May;52(5):447-52.

Colorectal cancer deaths as determined by expert committee and from death certificate: a comparison. The Minnesota Study.

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Division of Biostatistics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA.


For deaths during the first 13 years of follow-up of the Minnesota Colon Cancer Control Study, an expert committee using numerous medical documents, and a nosologist using only the death certificate independently determined whether colorectal cancer caused the death and, if not, whether the disease was present at death. Deaths due to colorectal cancer numbered 318 according to the nosologist and 323 according to the committee, a discrepancy of 1.5%, which is similar in magnitude to that in three previous studies. The nosologist and committee agreed that colorectal cancer caused the death in each of 290 individual cases; they disagreed widely on the number of deaths from other causes but with colorectal cancer. If it is important to know only the gross number of deaths from colorectal cancer, then the death certificate alone appears to be sufficiently accurate; if it is important to know the cause of death of individual subjects or the number dying from other causes but with colorectal cancer, then the expert committee method provides more accurate information.

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