Comparison of exposure assessment methods in a lung cancer case-control study: performance of a lifelong task-based questionnaire for asbestos and PAHs
Objective To describe the performance of a lifelong task-based questionnaire (TBQ) in estimating exposures compared with other approaches in the context of a case-control study.
Methods A sample of 93 subjects was randomly selected from a lung cancer case-control study corresponding to 497 jobs. For each job, exposure assessments for asbestos and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were obtained by expertise (TBQ expertise) and by algorithm using the TBQ (TBQ algorithm) as well as by expert appraisals based on all available occupational data (REFERENCE expertise) considered to be the gold standard. Additionally, a Job Exposure Matrix (JEM)-based evaluation for asbestos was also obtained. On the 497 jobs, the various evaluations were contrasted using Cohen's κ coefficient of agreement. Additionally, on the total case-control population, the asbestos dose-response relationship based on the TBQ algorithm was compared with the JEM-based assessment.
Results Regarding asbestos, the TBQ-exposure estimates agreed well with the REFERENCE estimate (TBQ expertise: level-weighted κ (lwk)=0.68; TBQ algorithm: lwk=0.61) but less so with the JEM estimate (TBQ expertise: lwk=0.31; TBQ algorithm: lwk=0.26). Regarding PAHs, the agreements between REFERENCE expertise and TBQ were less good (TBQ expertise: lwk=0.43; TBQ algorithm: lwk=0.36). In the case-control study analysis, the dose-response relationship between lung cancer and cumulative asbestos based on the JEM is less steep than with the TBQ-algorithm exposure assessment and statistically non-significant.
Conclusions Asbestos-exposure estimates based on the TBQ were consistent with the REFERENCE expertise and yielded a steeper dose-response relationship than the JEM. For PAHs, results were less clear.