Reporting and methodological quality of survival analysis in articles published in Chinese oncology journals

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Abstract

Survival analysis methods have gained widespread use in the filed of oncology. For achievement of reliable results, the methodological process and report quality is crucial. This review provides the first examination of methodological characteristics and reporting quality of survival analysis in articles published in leading Chinese oncology journals.

To examine methodological and reporting quality of survival analysis, to identify some common deficiencies, to desirable precautions in the analysis, and relate advice for authors, readers, and editors.

A total of 242 survival analysis articles were included to be evaluated from 1492 articles published in 4 leading Chinese oncology journals in 2013. Articles were evaluated according to 16 established items for proper use and reporting of survival analysis.

The application rates of Kaplan–Meier, life table, log-rank test, Breslow test, and Cox proportional hazards model (Cox model) were 91.74%, 3.72%, 78.51%, 0.41%, and 46.28%, respectively, no article used the parametric method for survival analysis. Multivariate Cox model was conducted in 112 articles (46.28%). Follow-up rates were mentioned in 155 articles (64.05%), of which 4 articles were under 80% and the lowest was 75.25%, 55 articles were100%. The report rates of all types of survival endpoint were lower than 10%. Eleven of 100 articles which reported a loss to follow-up had stated how to treat it in the analysis. One hundred thirty articles (53.72%) did not perform multivariate analysis. One hundred thirty-nine articles (57.44%) did not define the survival time. Violations and omissions of methodological guidelines included no mention of pertinent checks for proportional hazard assumption; no report of testing for interactions and collinearity between independent variables; no report of calculation method of sample size. Thirty-six articles (32.74%) reported the methods of independent variable selection. The above defects could make potentially inaccurate, misleading of the reported results, or difficult to interpret.

There are gaps in the conduct and reporting of survival analysis in studies published in Chinese oncology journals, severe deficiencies were noted. More endorsement by journals of the report guideline for survival analysis may improve articles quality, and the dissemination of reliable evidence to oncology clinicians. We recommend authors, readers, reviewers, and editors to consider survival analysis more carefully and cooperate more closely with statisticians and epidemiologists.

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