What is the difference between a prospective cohort study and a randomized controlled trial?

A prospective cohort study follows a group of participants over a period of time to track the development of an outcome of interest, while a randomized controlled trial tests the effectiveness of a specific intervention on a group of people.

Randomized controlled trials are considered the “gold standard” when attempting to argue for causality, as they provide the most suitable conditions to do so. Prospective cohort studies, while a solid and mostly generalizable choice, are better suited for studying the natural progression of diseases or health outcomes.