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Open Access Research article

Integrated analysis of incidence, progression, regression and disappearance probabilities

Guan-Hua Huang

Author Affiliations

Institute of Statistics, National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan

BMC Medical Research Methodology 2008, 8:40  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-8-40

Published: 25 June 2008



Age-related maculopathy (ARM) is a leading cause of vision loss in people aged 65 or older. ARM is distinctive in that it is a disease which can transition through incidence, progression, regression and disappearance. The purpose of this study is to develop methodologies for studying the relationship of risk factors with different transition probabilities.


Our framework for studying this relationship includes two different analytical approaches. In the first approach, one can define, model and estimate the relationship between each transition probability and risk factors separately. This approach is similar to constraining a population to a certain disease status at the baseline, and then analyzing the probability of the constrained population to develop a different status. While this approach is intuitive, one risks losing available information while at the same time running into the problem of insufficient sample size. The second approach specifies a transition model for analyzing such a disease. This model provides the conditional probability of a current disease status based upon a previous status, and can therefore jointly analyze all transition probabilities. Throughout the paper, an analysis to determine the birth cohort effect on ARM is used as an illustration.

Results and conclusion

This study has found parallel separate and joint analyses to be more enlightening than any analysis in isolation. By implementing both approaches, one can obtain more reliable and more efficient results.