Imputing pre-diagnosis health behaviour in cancer registry data and investigating its relationship with oesophageal cancer survival time

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Background As oesophageal cancer has short survival, it is likely pre-diagnosis health behaviours will have carry-over effects on post-diagnosis survival times. Cancer registry data sets do not usually contain pre-diagnosis health behaviours and so need to be augmented with data from external health surveys. A new algorithm is introduced and tested to augment cancer registries with external data when one-to-one data linkage is not available. Methods The algorithm is to use external health survey data to impute pre-diagnosis health behaviour for cancer patients, estimate misclassification errors in these imputed values and then fit misclassification corrected Cox regression to quantify the association between pre-diagnosis health behaviour and post-diagnosis survival. Data from US cancer registries and a US national health survey are used in testing the algorithm. Results It is demonstrated that the algorithm works effectively on simulated smoking data when there is no age confounding. But age confounding does exist (risk of death increases with age and most health behaviours change with age) and interferes with the performance of the algorithm. The estimate of the hazard ratio (HR) of pre-diagnosis smoking was HR = 1.32 (95% CI 0.82,2.68) with HR = 1.93 (95% CI 1.08,7.07) in the squamous cell sub-group and pre-diagnosis physical activity was protective of survival with HR = 0.25 (95% CI 0.03, 0.81). But the method failed for less common behaviours (such as heavy drinking). Conclusions Further improvements in the I2C2 algorithm will permit enrichment of cancer registry data through imputation of new variables with negligible risk to patient confidentiality, opening new research opportunities in cancer epidemiology.

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12 December

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