Accuracy of self-reported smoking status among participants in a chemoprevention trial

María Elena Martínez, Mary Reid, Ruiyun Jiang, Janine Einspahr, David S. Alberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Background. Exposure to tobacco products is readily assessed through self- or interview-administered questionnaires. Degree of misreporting among participants in chemoprevention trials is unknown. We assessed the level of discrepancy between self-reported smoking exposure and plasma cotinine among participants in a chemoprevention trial. Methods. Analyses were conducted among 824 men and women who participated in a dietary trial of adenoma recurrence. Smoking exposure was ascertained through self-administered questionnaires at three time-points. Plasma cotinine was measured by gas chromatography among 283 never, 446 former and 95 current self-reported smokers. Sensitivity and specificity were assessed using various plasma cotinine cut-points. Results. Degree of misclassification for self-reported current smokers was minor (0-3%), regardless of cotinine cut-point used. Using a cut-point of 20 ng/ml, which takes into account exposure to environmental tobacco smoke among nonsmokers, sensitivity and specificity were 98.9% and 80.2%, respectively. Conclusions. These data indicate that degree of misreport for current smokers is extremely low; however, approximately 20% of self-reported never smokers misreport their exposure, suggesting that validation of self-report is needed for these individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-497
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Cotinine
  • Sensitivity
  • Smoking
  • Specificity
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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