Background: Interaction refers to the situation in which the effect of 1 exposure on an outcome differs across strata of another exposure. We did a survey of epidemiologic studies published in leading journals to examine how interaction is assessed and reported.
Methods: We selected 150 case-control and 75 cohort studies published between May 2001 and May 2007 in leading general medicine, epidemiology, and clinical specialist journals. Two reviewers independently extracted data on study characteristics.
Results: Of the 225 studies, 138 (61%) addressed interaction. Among these, 25 (18%) presented no data or only a P value or a statement of statistical significance; 40 (29%) presented stratum-specific effect estimates but no meaningful comparison of these estimates; and 58 (42%) presented stratum-specific estimates and appropriate tests for interaction. Fifteen articles (11%) presented the individual effects of both exposures and also their joint effect or a product term, providing sufficient information to interpret interaction on an additive and multiplicative scale. Reporting was poorest in articles published in clinical specialist articles and most adequate in articles published in general medicine journals, with epidemiology journals in an intermediate position.
Conclusions: A majority of articles reporting cohort and case-control studies address possible interactions between exposures. However, in about half of these, the information provided was unsatisfactory, and only 1 in 10 studies reported data that allowed readers to interpret interaction effects on an additive and multiplicative scale.