Using survival methods to estimate age-at-onset distributions for genetic diseases with an application to Huntington disease

Academic Article


  • Two important considerations in genetic disease are the risk of inheriting the gene for a disease and the age-at-onset distribution among those inheriting it. This paper describes the use of survival data analytic methods to estimate these entities. When a sample consists of children and/or siblings of affected individuals, standard lifetable methods such as Kaplan-Meier techniques can be applied. The desired estimators are functions of the Kaplan-Meier estimator and their properties are derived using the invariance principle and delta methods. A discussion of the underlying assumptions and estimators of standard errors and mean onset age are given. In an application to Huntington disease, the risk (± SE) of inheriting the gene for disease among children of a singly affected parent is estimated to be 0.499 ± 0.020 and the estimated mean onset age (± SE) is 45.6 ± 0.7. Copyright © 1989 Wiley-Liss, Inc., A Wiley Company
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Cupples LA; Terrin NC; Myers RH; D'Agostino RB
  • Start Page

  • 361
  • End Page

  • 371
  • Volume

  • 6
  • Issue

  • 2