A prospective study is one that looks ahead to see if the risk factors identified by the retrospective study predict a tendency to develop the disease. Cohort groups, which are study groups that have a known exposure to the risk factor, are selected and then followed over time. The incidence of disease in those who were exposed to the risk factor and those who were not are then compared. By following cohort groups, the study focuses on the hypothesized cause and attempts to determine if it does indeed correlate with the expected effect. This type of study is less prone to bias than the retrospective study because the groups are selected before disease occurs. It is generally more time-consuming and expensive, however, particularly when examining a disease that has a long incubation period. Also, an error in the initial identification of the risk factor renders the entire study useless.
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