Author(s): Bhatti P, Sigurdson AJ, Thomas CB, Iwan A, Alexander BH,
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Abstract The overwhelming majority of studies that have found increased cancer risk associated with functional deficits in DNA repair used a case-control design, in which measurements were made after cancer diagnosis. However, there are concerns about whether the cancer itself or cancer treatment affected the conclusions (reverse causation bias). We assessed the effect of cancer diagnosis among 26 breast cancer controls who had blood collected during 2001 to 2003 and again in 2005 to 2006 after being diagnosed with cancer. Using the alkaline comet assay, we quantified DNA damage in untreated lymphoblastoid cell lines. Comet distributed moment, olive tail moment, percentage of DNA in tail, and comet tail length were summarized as the geometric mean of 100 cells. For comet distributed moment, olive tail moment, tail DNA, and tail length, the proportions of women with before diagnosis values higher than after diagnosis were 65\%, 50\%, 50\%, and 46\%, respectively. We found no significant differences in the before or after diagnosis mean comet values. Median cut-points were determined from the before diagnosis distribution, and we used conditional logistic regression to calculate odds ratios (OR) and upper 95\% bounds of the confidence intervals. ORs ranged from 0.6 to 0.9 with upper confidence interval bounds of 1.9 and 2.6, meaning biased ORs above 2.6 are unlikely. We found no evidence that reverse causation bias is an important concern in case-control studies using the comet assay applied to cell lines collected after cancer diagnosis. More work is needed to characterize the effect of cancer diagnosis on other phenotypic assays.
This article was published in Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev
and referenced in Journal of Carcinogenesis & Mutagenesis