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Crowdsourced Health Research

CureTogether just reported that they revealed a link between self-reported infertility and asthma:

Patients at CureTogether who report infertility are 1.9x more likely to report having asthma than patients who don’t report infertility.

This comes from an analysis of 324 patients. Within the 34 people reporting infertility, 13 (38%) reported having asthma (the remaining 21 out of 34 specifically said they did NOT have asthma). Within the 290 people reporting “no infertility”, 58 (20%) reported having asthma (the remaining 232 specifically reported NOT having asthma).

This 38% vs. 20% relative risk is statistically significant, with a 95% confidence interval of 1.2 – 3.1.


While I think crowdsourced health research is really something that we will use more and more often in the future, I believe we have to interpret these results with caution. The number of patients they analyzed seems to be low. In such small populations, we could find very strange associations only because of the statistically low number of participants.

There was a research in which they analyzed 491,000 women and compared fertility rates between women with asthma and without asthma. They found no evidence of association.

The authors found no evidence that the fertility rates of women with asthma, eczema, or hay fever are lower than those of women in the general population.

I’m sure Curetogether will improve this and come up with other results as well.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Berci,
    Thanks for posting this! Yes, you are right that we don’t yet know how representative our members are of the larger population. In the paper you mention, while they didn’t find a significant correlation between asthma and infertility, they did find a different association between fertility and asthma than between fertility and other allergies. And other papers (listed below) have suggested a correlation and/or studied fewer patients.

    That said, we’re definitely more at the hypothesis-generating stage than the conclusion-making stage at this point. It’s just interesting to us to see some significant results using self-reported data that have counterparts in the world of clinical studies:

    1. Asthma was found to be associated with irregular menstruation.

    2. Asthma is higher in women with endometriosis (which also has a high correlation to infertility) than in the general population.

    3. The more siblings you have, the less likely you are to have asthma.

    4. A big cohort study in the UK found no link between fertility and allergy-related diseases but also said that with asthma in particular there was a different relationship to fertility than with eczema and hay fever.

    September 24, 2009

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  1. CureTogether acquired by 23andMe: An Obvious Step « ScienceRoll

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