Meta-analysis in occupational epidemiology: a review of practice


McElvenny, DM; Armstrong, BG; Jarup, L; Higgins, JPT; (2004) Meta-analysis in occupational epidemiology: a review of practice. Occupational medicine (Oxford, England), 54 (5). pp. 336-344. ISSN 0962-7480 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqh049

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Abstract

Objectives To describe past practice in meta-analyses sound in occupational epidemiology, identifying the major issues that should be considered by researchers planning a meta-analysis in this setting. Methods An electronic search of relevant online databases was undertaken. Papers were included in the review if they contained a statistical synthesis of risks in an occupational health setting. Results Sixty reports of meta-analyses were identified, mostly in cancer. The number of meta-analyses has increased consistently over the last 20 years. A majority of studies focused on a mean overall effect, although more than half of them also investigated heterogeneity of results. Both fixed effect and random effects meta-analysis models were employed, the former more often, and in eight studies used despite a statistically significant test for heterogeneity. A large proportion of the meta-analyses included different effect measures in the statistical synthesis, for example, including standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) and standardized incidence ratios. Most meta-analyses limited to a single type of effect measure focused on SMRs. The vast majority of meta-analyses combined all studies regardless of variation in the extent of information on exposures. Conclusions Meta-analyses in occupational epidemiology should properly explore and incorporate heterogeneity among studies. The meta-SMR is an important construct in this field, evidenced by a large proportion of cohort studies in the meta-analyses we identified. Controversy remains over the definition and validity of the meta-SMR. In addition, several other issues, notably dealing with heterogeneity in exposure, warrant further consideration.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: meta-analysis, occupational epidemiology, practice, review, MAGNETIC-FIELD EXPOSURE, DIESEL EXHAUST EXPOSURE, LUNG-CANCER, META-ANALYSIS, FORMALDEHYDE EXPOSURE, PANCREATIC-CANCER, RESPIRATORY, CANCER, ASBESTOS EXPOSURE, ORGANIC-SOLVENTS, PROSTATE-CANCER
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Social and Environmental Health Research
Web of Science ID: 223472700010
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/57325

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