Estimation of exposure-response relations from epidemiological data is complicated by the fact that exposures usually vary in intensity over time. Cumulative exposure indices, which do not separate the effects of intensity and duration, are commonly used to circumvent this problem. In this paper the estimation of relative risk for specific ranges of exposure intensity from such data is considered using existing statistical methods for fitting multivariate relative risk models. This has the advantage that it does not assume that exposure intensity and duration have equivalent effects on risk. It also throws light on the possible existence of a threshold. The procedure was applied to data from a cohort of 406 vermiculite miners to examine the lung cancer risk associated with exposure to fibrous tremolite, which contaminated the vermiculite. The pattern of exposure-response differed substantially from that obtained using a cumulative exposure index to assess risk.
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