Prospective cohort studies identify groups of subjects and collect samples and/or data from the subjects at baseline and thereafter until a specific point in time. The advantages of this design are that one can establish temporal relationships between events and exposure and that biases relating to incomplete recall of exposures are minimized. In addition, both absolute and relative risk measures of disease can be estimated. The disadvantages of this design include difficulty in maintaining follow-up for the study subjects and potential inefficiency if the disease outcome of interest is rare or infrequent in the study population (e.g. neuropathic pain).
An approach to limiting the cost of prospective cohort studies is to set up the cohort and then only conduct laboratory analyses for study subjects who become affected with the disease of interest along with a matched set of study subjects who do not become affected. This is called a nested case-control design because it is a case-control study nested within a cohort.
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