Empirical likelihood-based confidence intervals for length-biased data


Correspondence to: Jing Ning, Department of Biostatistics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, U.S.A.

E-mail: jning@mdanderson.org


Logistic or other constraints often preclude the possibility of conducting incident cohort studies. A feasible alternative in such cases is to conduct a cross-sectional prevalent cohort study for which we recruit prevalent cases, that is, subjects who have already experienced the initiating event, say the onset of a disease. When the interest lies in estimating the lifespan between the initiating event and a terminating event, say death for instance, such subjects may be followed prospectively until the terminating event or loss to follow-up, whichever happens first. It is well known that prevalent cases have, on average, longer lifespans. As such, they do not constitute a representative random sample from the target population; they comprise a biased sample. If the initiating events are generated from a stationary Poisson process, the so-called stationarity assumption, this bias is called length bias. The current literature on length-biased sampling lacks a simple method for estimating the margin of errors of commonly used summary statistics. We fill this gap by using the empirical likelihood-based confidence intervals by adapting this method to right-censored length-biased survival data. Both large and small sample behaviors of these confidence intervals are studied. We illustrate our method by using a set of data on survival with dementia, collected as part of the Canadian Study of Health and Aging. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.