Epidemiology. An introduction (Article).pdf - Eur J Epidemiol(2012 27:827\u2013829 DOI 10.1007\/s10654-012-9732-4 BOOK REVIEW Kenneth J Rothman Epidemiology

Epidemiology. An introduction (Article).pdf - Eur J...

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BOOK REVIEW Kenneth J. Rothman: Epidemiology. An introduction 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-19-975455-7 Andreas Stang Received: 3 July 2012 / Accepted: 12 September 2012 / Published online: 27 September 2012 Ó Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012 After his famous text book ‘‘Modern Epidemiology’’, since 2008 available in its third edition [ 1 ], Kenneth J. Rothman [ 2 ] provides a second edition of his introductory level text book. To make a long story short—it is a high-level introductory book that presents multiple concepts of epi- demiologic research. In the foreword of the book, Rothman clarifies a frequent misconception of epidemiology: ‘‘Some observers appear to believe that epidemiology is no more than the application of statistical methods to the problems of disease occurrence and causation. But epidemiology is much more than applied statistics. It is a scientific disci- pline with roots in biology, logic, and the philosophy of science.’’ Rothman continues ‘‘The emphasis of the book is not on statistics, formulas, or computation but on epidemiologic principles and concepts’’. The book contains 13 chapters and includes 268 pages. Compared to the first edition, two chapters entitled ‘‘Pioneers in Epidemiology and Public Health’’ and ‘‘Infectious Disease Epidemiology’’ have been added. The book is accompanied by a website that posts answers to the questions raised at the end of each chapter in the text ( ). This website will also support reader participation in discussing, extending, and revising points presented in the book. Frequently, introductory text books of epidemiology do not go beyond Bradford Hill’s viewpoints when they introduce concepts of causation. Chapter 3 entitled ‘‘What is causation’’ introduces principles of the logic of scientific discovery (induction, refutationism), the sufficient component cause model, the notion of strong causes, induction and latency time, principles of canonical inference (Bradford Hill’s viewpoints), and issues related to generalization of study results. Chapter 4 introduces measures of occurrence and effects including concepts like competing risks, the associations between (1) incidence rate and incidence proportion, (2) prevalence and incidence rate, and (3) the ratio of inci- dence proportions and incidence rates. Chapter 5 adds related concepts as for instance immortal person time, closed cohorts and dynamic populations. Given that the reader understands the concept of incidence rate, Rothman presents one of the shortest but clearest definitions of a mortality rate: ‘‘mortality rate is an incidence rate of death’’ (p. 186). The chapter on bias starts with a clear distinction between random and systematic error and thereafter addresses types of biases. Interestingly, this book clearly distinguishes between selection bias that stems from the procedures used to select subjects (bias source: investiga- tor) and selection bias that stems from factors that influence study participation (bias source: subjects).
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