Quantifying posterior effect size distribution of susceptibility loci by common summary statistics

Olga A. Vsevolozhskaya, Dmitri V. Zaykin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Testing millions of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genetic association studies has become a standard routine for disease gene discovery. In light of recent re-evaluation of statistical practice, it has been suggested that p-values are unfit as summaries of statistical evidence. Despite this criticism, p-values contain information that can be utilized to address the concerns about their flaws. We present a new method for utilizing evidence summarized by p-values for estimating odds ratio (OR) based on its approximate posterior distribution. In our method, only p-values, sample size, and standard deviation for ln(OR) are needed as summaries of data, accompanied by a suitable prior distribution for ln(OR) that can assume any shape. The parameter of interest, ln(OR), is the only parameter with a specified prior distribution, hence our model is a mix of classical and Bayesian approaches. We show that our method retains the main advantages of the Bayesian approach: it yields direct probability statements about hypotheses for OR and is resistant to biases caused by selection of top-scoring SNPs. Our method enjoys greater flexibility than similarly inspired methods in the assumed distribution for the summary statistic and in the form of the prior for the parameter of interest. We illustrate our method by presenting interval estimates of effect size for reported genetic associations with lung cancer. Although we focus on OR, the method is not limited to this particular measure of effect size and can be used broadly for assessing reliability of findings in studies testing multiple predictors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-351
Number of pages13
JournalGenetic Epidemiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • approximate Bayes methods
  • p-values
  • prior distributions
  • strength of evidence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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