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Using Bayesian Models to Assess the Effects of Under-reporting of Cannabis Use on the Association with Birth Defects, National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997–2005
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  • Alternative Title:
    Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol
  • Description:

    Studies on associations between periconceptional cannabis exposure and birth defects have mainly relied on self-reported exposure. Therefore, the results may be biased due to underreporting of the exposure. The aim of this study was to quantify the potential effects of this form of exposure misclassification.


    Using multivariable logistic regression, we re-analyzed associations between periconceptional cannabis use and 20 specific birth defects using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study from 1997–2005 for 13 859 case infants and 6556 control infants. For seven birth defects, we implemented four Bayesian models based on various assumptions concerning the sensitivity of self-reported cannabis use to estimate odds ratios (ORs), adjusted for confounding and underreporting of the exposure. We used information on sensitivity of self-reported cannabis use from the literature for prior assumptions.


    The results unadjusted for underreporting of the exposure showed an association between cannabis use and anencephaly (posterior OR 1.9 [95% credible interval (CRI) 1.1, 3.2]) which persisted after adjustment for potential exposure misclassification. Initially, no statistically significant associations were observed between cannabis use and the other birth defect categories studied. Although adjustment for underreporting did not notably change these effect estimates, cannabis use was associated with esophageal atresia (posterior OR 1.7 [95% CRI 1.0, 2.9]), diaphragmatic hernia (posterior OR 1.8 [95% CRI 1.1, 3.0]) and gastroschisis (posterior OR 1.7 [95% CRI 1.2, 2.3]) after correction for exposure misclassification.


    Underreporting of the exposure may have obscured some cannabis-birth defect associations in previous studies. However, the resulting bias is likely to be limited.

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