Meta-analysis of genetic association studies: magic tool or dangerous black box?
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In the field of genetic epidemiology, where primary studies are often underpowered to detect small genetic effects and where conflicting results and non-replication of initial findings are often encountered , the importance of meta-analysis has been widely recognised, as demonstrated by the steep increase in the number of published genetic meta-analyses over time . What has not received sufficient attention is the fact that the results of a meta-analysis, as with any other study design, are only valid if the meta-analysis has been conducted following appropriate methodology. Therefore, the paper by Boccia and colleagues published in this issue , which reports the findings of a systematic review on the quality of meta-analyses of genetic association studies in the field of cancer research, represents an important contribution to a rather neglected area. Boccia and colleagues reviewed 169 papers published up to January 2009 and report a substantial methodological improvement...