Research Article| Volume 92, P176-185, October 2016

The InterLACE study: Design, data harmonization and characteristics across 20 studies on women’s health


      • InterLACE is an international collaboration of 20 observational studies across 10 countries.
      • Harmonized individual-level data on reproductive health and chronic disease are available from 230,000 women.
      • The prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease among mid-aged women were 5% and 7% at the end of study follow-up, respectively.
      • InterLACE enables a detailed review of methodologies currently used in the field of women’s health.



      The International Collaboration for a Life Course Approach to Reproductive Health and Chronic Disease Events (InterLACE) project is a global research collaboration that aims to advance understanding of women’s reproductive health in relation to chronic disease risk by pooling individual participant data from several cohort and cross-sectional studies. The aim of this paper is to describe the characteristics of contributing studies and to present the distribution of demographic and reproductive factors and chronic disease outcomes in InterLACE.

      Study design

      InterLACE is an individual-level pooled study of 20 observational studies (12 of which are longitudinal) from ten countries. Variables were harmonized across studies to create a new and systematic synthesis of life-course data.

      Main outcome measures

      Harmonized data were derived in three domains: 1) socio-demographic and lifestyle factors, 2) female reproductive characteristics, and 3) chronic disease outcomes (cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes).


      InterLACE pooled data from 229,054 mid-aged women. Overall, 76% of the women were Caucasian and 22% Japanese; other ethnicities (of 300 or more participants) included Hispanic/Latin American (0.2%), Chinese (0.2%), Middle Eastern (0.3%), African/black (0.5%), and Other (1.0%). The median age at baseline was 47 years (Inter-quartile range (IQR): 41–53), and that at the last follow-up was 56 years (IQR: 48–64). Regarding reproductive characteristics, half of the women (49.8%) had their first menstruation (menarche) at 12–13 years of age. The distribution of menopausal status and the prevalence of chronic disease varied considerably among studies. At baseline, most women (57%) were pre- or peri-menopausal, 20% reported a natural menopause (range 0.8–55.6%) and the remainder had surgery or were taking hormones. By the end of follow-up, the prevalence rates of CVD and diabetes were 7.2% (range 0.9–24.6%) and 5.1% (range 1.3–13.2%), respectively.


      The scale and heterogeneity of InterLACE data provide an opportunity to strengthen evidence concerning the relationships between reproductive health through life and subsequent risks of chronic disease, including cross-cultural comparisons.


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