Posts Tagged ‘epidemiology’

blogpost letter to S.Express on epidemiological cancer and fatuous headline

June 10, 2013

Please, You Have to stop printing headlines such as “cancer risk of two beers a year”.
Such assertions are not only alarmist but of dubious merit.
First point of objection, to this particular claim, is that anyone, who drinks beer, will have already exceeded that limit by January 1st, every year.
Second point of objection is that scientists do not make such statements.
For a scientist with any integrity to make such a bald statement, he/she would have to prove a causative effect, that could be demonstrated and repeated.
I suspect that this claim has been made by epidemiologists.
These are people, who search for associated factors and make statistical analyses, based on them.
In this instance, I would question first the form of cancer being associated.
Most cancers can be linked to a particular cause. For example lung cancer can be directly linked to tobacco tars.
Which cancer is being linked with beer drinking?
Consider; Until about ten years ago most pub/club interiors had walls stained yellow with tobacco tar and most people, who I know, would frequent such places to celebrate New Year.
I suspect that these scientists would, if funded to do so, find overwhelming evidence that celebrating the New Year causes cancer.
I really do question the integrity of the people making this claim, even if only on the basis that one third of all deaths are related to cancer, yet the fraction of the population exceeding the stated alcohol limit is probably much greater.

Epidemiology is no more a Science than is Sports Betting.

May 8, 2012

Sometimes I get so fed up with Epidemiologists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epidemiology) being referred to as Scientists, by the Media.

The Media print their findings with the headline “Scientists have found…..”, as though this finding is a truism and not merely an interpretation of an apparent, statistically based link.

Sometimes the link is so tenuous, it’s barely credible, yet it is treated as a causal link.

For example; the latest “Scientists have found…..” is the link between people who are fast eaters and people who suffer from diabetes.

This is printed as though chewing each mouthful of food a hundred times will prevent you from suffering from diabetes.

I’m not denying that there possibly is a link.

What I object to is the message that any Scientist would present this link as proof of the interpretation that has been put on it.

Epidemiologists have noticed other links, related to diabetes e.g. the number of sufferer’s in the affluent West is increasing and, coincidentally, so has obesity. Excessive eating seems a more likely cause of diabetes, although not absolutely proven, and this could be related to eating fast.

Note, however, that eating fast does not necessarily mean eating to excess, even although there is a possible mechanism between eating fast and over-eating.

Just because it seems obvious that a link is causal link, this does not make it so.

It was only a few decades ago that researchers in Australia proved that stomach ulcers weren’t (as many doctor’s “knew”) caused by stressful lives, but by a bacterium called H. pylori. Instead of patients dying on the operating table, they now take a course of antibiotics and recover quickly.

No doubt some epidemiologists will, at times, put the correct interpretation on their statistical analyses but that is not, itself, Science.

Rather, it will be Science that proves their interpretations true, or false.