Case-control studies are an important part of the epidemiologic literature, yet confusion remains about how to interpret estimates from different case-control study designs. We demonstrate that not all case-control study designs estimate odds ratios. On the contrary, case-control studies in the literature often report odds ratios as their main parameter even when using designs that do not estimate odds ratios. Only studies using specific case-control designs should report odds ratios, whereas the case-cohort and incidence-density sampled case-control studies must report risk ratio and incidence rate ratios, respectively. This also applies to case-control studies conducted in open cohorts, which often estimate incidence rate ratios. We also demonstrate the misinterpretation of case-control study estimates in a small sample of highly cited case-control studies in general epidemiologic and medical journals. We therefore suggest that greater care be taken when considering which parameter is to be reported from a case-control study. © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.