Exposure Opportunity: The Advantages of Including Men in Analyses of Female-Related Risk Factors.

American Journal of Epidemiology

PubMedID: 28444117

Rozemeijer K, le Cessie S, van Hylckama Vlieg A, Rosendaal FR, Vandenbroucke JP, Poole C, Cannegieter SC. Exposure Opportunity: The Advantages of Including Men in Analyses of Female-Related Risk Factors. Am J Epidemiol. 2017;185(10):965-973.
Intuitively, researchers do not include subjects who do not have the opportunity to be exposed, such as men in studies on oral contraceptives (OCs). We aimed to explore in which situations it is nevertheless beneficial to do so. We considered the effect of including men in case-control analyses of 8 different hypothetical data sets on the effect of OC use and venous thrombosis. In all scenarios, OC use was the exposure of interest, sex the factor that determined exposure opportunity, and air travel another risk factor. In some of these scenarios, sex and air travel were included as confounders or effect modifiers. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios. Standard errors of the estimated log odds ratios, including and excluding men, were compared. We also studied the effect of including men using data from 1999-2004 from a case-control study on risk factors for venous thrombosis, conducted in the Netherlands. In all hypothetical examples, and in the real-data study, addition of men to the analysis yielded the same odds ratios when correctly adjusting for confounding. Moreover, use of additional subjects often led to more precise estimates. We suggest that subjects who do not have the opportunity to be exposed should not routinely be excluded from epidemiologic studies.