ABSTRACT: Evaluation of Potential Confounders in Planning a Study
of Occupational Magnetic Field Exposure and Female Breast Cancer
We examined potential confounding factors that, if unaccounted
for, could possibly produce a spurious association in a study
of breast cancer among women occupationally exposed to magnetic
For each risk factor, we estimated strength of association,
prevalence in the general population, and prevalence of the risk
factor in the exposed group required to explain completely hypothetical
odds ratios between occupational exposure to magnetic fields
and breast cancer.
We performed similar analyses for two, three,
four, and five confounding factors acting simultaneously. Factors
numerically capable of substantial confounding included obesity,
continent of birth, family history of breast cancer in a first-degree
relative, densities on the mammogram, benign proliferative breast
disease, history of cancer in one breast, and consumption of
at least two alcoholic drinks per day.
Nevertheless, only continent
of birth, history of cancer, obesity, and consumption of alcohol
could potentially be related to occupation. Uncontrolled confounders,
either alone or in combination, could possibly account for odds
ratios in the 1.2-1.3 range but were very unlikely to produce
an odds ratio of more than 1.5.
A spurious negative association
between magnetic fields and breast cancer could occur if the
exposed group included a large number of immigrants from Asia
Euro J Cancer Prevention, 8/03
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