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Prospective studies look to study individuals over time looking to examine variables identified at the beginning of the study (eg reported stressful life events) relate to subsequent conditions (eg depression).

Prospective cohort study

A prospective cohort study is a cohort study that follows over time a group of similar individuals ("cohort") who differ with respect to certain factors under study, in order to determine how these factors affect rates of a certain outcome.[1] For example, one might follow a cohort of middle-aged truck drivers who vary in terms of smoking habits, in order to test the hypothesis that the 20-year incidence rate of lung cancer will be highest among heavy smokers, followed by moderate smokers, and then nonsmokers.

The prospective study is important for research on the etiology of disorders in humans because for ethical reasons people cannot be deliberately exposed to suspected risk factors in controlled experiments.

It can be more expensive than a case–control study.[2]

See also


  1. Definition of prospective cohort study - NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.
  2. Manolio TA, Bailey-Wilson JE, Collins FS (October 2006). Genes, environment and the value of prospective cohort studies. Nat. Rev. Genet. 7 (10): 812–20.