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Methods for Dealing With Missing Covariate Data in Epigenome-Wide Association Studies.

Authors
  • Mills, Harriet L
  • Heron, Jon
  • Relton, Caroline
  • Suderman, Matt
  • Tilling, Kate
Type
Published Article
Journal
American journal of epidemiology
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2019
Volume
188
Issue
11
Pages
2021–2030
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwz186
PMID: 31504104
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Multiple imputation (MI) is a well-established method for dealing with missing data. MI is computationally intensive when imputing missing covariates with high-dimensional outcome data (e.g., DNA methylation data in epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS)), because every outcome variable must be included in the imputation model to avoid biasing associations towards the null. Instead, EWAS analyses are reduced to only complete cases, limiting statistical power and potentially causing bias. We used simulations to compare 5 MI methods for high-dimensional data under 2 missingness mechanisms. All imputation methods had increased power over complete-case (C-C) analyses. Imputing missing values separately for each variable was computationally inefficient, but dividing sites at random into evenly sized bins improved efficiency and gave low bias. Methods imputing solely using subsets of sites identified by the C-C analysis suffered from bias towards the null. However, if these subsets were added into random bins of sites, this bias was reduced. The optimal methods were applied to an EWAS with missingness in covariates. All methods identified additional sites over the C-C analysis, and many of these sites had been replicated in other studies. These methods are also applicable to other high-dimensional data sets, including the rapidly expanding area of "-omics" studies. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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