Recruiting population controls for case-control studies in sub-Saharan Africa: The Ghana Breast Health Study

Sarah J Nyante, Richard Biritwum, Jonine Figueroa, Barry Graubard, Baffour Awuah, Beatrice Wiafe Addai, Joel Yarney, Joe Nat Clegg-Lamptey, Daniel Ansong, Kofi Nyarko, Seth Wiafe, Joseph Oppong, Isaac Boakye, Michelle Brotzman, Robertson Adjei, Lucy T Afriyie, Montserrat Garcia-Closas, Louise A Brinton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: In case-control studies, population controls can help ensure generalizability; however, the selection of population controls can be challenging in environments that lack population registries. We developed a population enumeration and sampling strategy to facilitate use of population controls in a breast cancer case-control study conducted in Ghana.

METHODS: Household enumeration was conducted in 110 census-defined geographic areas within Ghana's Ashanti, Central, Eastern, and Greater Accra Regions. A pool of potential controls (women aged 18 to 74 years, never diagnosed with breast cancer) was selected from the enumeration using systematic random sampling and frequency-matched to the anticipated distributions of age and residence among cases. Multiple attempts were made to contact potential controls to assess eligibility and arrange for study participation. To increase participation, we implemented a refusal conversion protocol in which initial non-participants were re-approached after several months.

RESULTS: 2,528 women were sampled from the enumeration listing, 2,261 (89%) were successfully contacted, and 2,106 were enrolled (overall recruitment of 83%). 170 women were enrolled through refusal conversion. Compared with women enrolled after being first approached, refusal conversion enrollees were younger and less likely to complete the study interview in the study hospital (13% vs. 23%). The most common reasons for non-participation were lack of interest and lack of time.

CONCLUSIONS: Using household enumeration and repeated contacts, we were able to recruit population controls with a high participation rate. Our approach may provide a blue-print for others undertaking epidemiologic studies in populations that lack accessible population registries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0215347
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2019


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