The causal effects of Apolipoprotein E $epsilon4$ allele (APOE) on late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and death are complicated to define because AD may occur under one intervention but not under the other, and because AD occurrence may affect age of death. In this article, this dual outcome scenario is studied using the semi-competing risks framework for time-to-event data. Two event times are of interest: a nonterminal event time (age at AD diagnosis), and a terminal event time (age at death). AD diagnosis time is observed only if it precedes death, which may occur before or after AD. We propose new estimands for capturing the causal effect of APOE on AD and death. Our proposal is based on a stratification of the population with respect to the order of the two events. We present a novel assumption utilizing the time-to-event nature of the data, which is more flexible than the often-invoked monotonicity assumption. We derive results on partial identifiability, suggest a sensitivity analysis approach, and give conditions under which full identification is possible. Finally, we present and implement nonparametric and semiparametric estimation methods under right-censored semi-competing risks data for studying the complex effect of APOE on AD and death.
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