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doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e31823b539c

Is Probabilistic Bias Analysis Approximately Bayesian?

MacLehose, Richard F.a,b; Gustafson, Paulc

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Case-control studies are particularly susceptible to differential exposure misclassification when exposure status is determined following incident case status. Probabilistic bias analysis methods have been developed as ways to adjust standard effect estimates based on the sensitivity and specificity of exposure misclassification. The iterative sampling method advocated in probabilistic bias analysis bears a distinct resemblance to a Bayesian adjustment; however, it is not identical. Furthermore, without a formal theoretical framework (Bayesian or frequentist), the results of a probabilistic bias analysis remain somewhat difficult to interpret. We describe, both theoretically and empirically, the extent to which probabilistic bias analysis can be viewed as approximately Bayesian. Although the differences between probabilistic bias analysis and Bayesian approaches to misclassification can be substantial, these situations often involve unrealistic prior specifications and are relatively easy to detect. Outside of these special cases, probabilistic bias analysis and Bayesian approaches to exposure misclassification in case-control studies appear to perform equally well.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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