The aim of analytical epidemiology is to identify risk factors or protective factors for diseases and functional impairments, and to quantify their impact on disease (or functional impairment) occurrence by measures such as the relative risk, the risk difference or more recently developed measures which may be particularly relevant for aging research, such as risk advancement periods (Brenner et al., 1993).
In the simplest case of a binary exposure and a binary outcome (disease), the data collected in an epidemiologic study can be tabulated in the form of a fourfold table (see Table 13.1). Basically, two prototypes of study designs, case-control studies and cohort (longitudinal) studies, can be distinguished. The choice of study design primarily depends on the frequency of the risk factors and the diseases (or impairments) under study.
Case-control studies For rare health outcomes, such as certain rare cancers, a case-control approach is often used, in which the cases (people with newly acquired disease or functional impairment) are compared with the controls (people without this outcome) with respect to the frequency of certain potential risk factors or preventive factors. In such
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