Study design and statistical analysis of data in human population studies with the micronucleus assay

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The most common study design performed in population studies based on the micronucleus (MN) assay, is the cross-sectional study, which is largely performed to evaluate the DNA damaging effects of exposure to genotoxic agents in the workplace, in the environment, as well as from diet or lifestyle factors. Sample size is still a critical issue in the design of MN studies since most recent studies considering gene-environment interaction, often require a sample size of several hundred subjects, which is in many cases difficult to achieve. The control of confounding is another major threat to the validity of causal inference. The most popular confounders considered in population studies using MN are age, gender and smoking habit. Extensive attention is given to the assessment of effect modification, given the increasing inclusion of biomarkers of genetic susceptibility in the study design. Selected issues concerning the statistical treatment of data have been addressed in this mini-review, starting from data description, which is a critical step of statistical analysis, since it allows to detect possible errors in the dataset to be analysed and to check the validity of assumptions required for more complex analyses. Basic issues dealing with statistical analysis of biomarkers are extensively evaluated, including methods to explore the dose-response relationship among two continuous variables and inferential analysis. A critical approach to the use of parametric and non-parametric methods is presented, before addressing the issue of most suitable multivariate models to fit MN data. In the last decade, the quality of statistical analysis of MN data has certainly evolved, although even nowadays only a small number of studies apply the Poisson model, which is the most suitable method for the analysis of MN data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-252
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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