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Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Feb 1;169(3):257-66. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn363. Epub 2008 Nov 14.

Recall bias in melanoma risk factors and measurement error effects: a nested case-control study within the Norwegian Women and Cancer Study.

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Department of Biostatistics, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.


Case-control studies of melanoma have the potential for recall bias after much public information about the relation with ultraviolet radiation. Recall bias has been investigated in few studies and only for some risk factors. A nested case-control study of recall bias was conducted in 2004 within the Norwegian Women and Cancer Study: 208 melanoma cases and 2,080 matched controls were invited. Data were analyzed for 162 cases (response, 78%) and 1,242 controls (response, 77%). Questionnaire responses to several host factors and ultraviolet exposures collected at enrollment in 1991-1997 and in 2004 were compared stratified on case-control status. Shifts in responses were observed among both cases and controls, but a shift in cases was observed only for skin color after chronic sun exposure, and a larger shift in cases was observed for nevi. Weighted kappa was lower for cases than for controls for most age intervals of sunburn, sunbathing vacations, and solarium use. Differences in odds ratio estimates of melanoma based on prospective and retrospective measurements indicate measurement error that is difficult to characterize. The authors conclude that indications of recall bias were found in this sample of Norwegian women, but that the results were inconsistent for the different exposures.

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