|Phil's home-made Market Harborough pie|
... and statistics.
The latest scare being the shock news that eating the odd bacon sarnie will render you 19% more likely to die of pancreatic cancer.
Bollocks. 19% of what? Well an increase of 19% over and above what it would be if you never ate bacon. This provokes two questions:
1) How did the "researchers" ensure that their control group had never touched a bacon roll or pork pie?
2) The base risk of contracting pancreatic cancer is infinitesimal until you are into your seventh decade, when it rises to (wait for it) around 0.75% - tops.
19% of 0.75 is 0.14%. So eating red meat, pork pies and enjoying a bacon buttie is increasing your risk overall, not by 19%, but by 0.14%. One might argue that such a small difference falls within the margins of error that any survey has. Not so dramatic now, is it?
|A typical health scare|
Doesn't make for an arresting headline either.
Burrowing a little deeper we begin to find the truth - the "study" was nothing of the sort. It was in fact an analysis of other people's research which may well have been looking at other factors and with differing controls and standards. From the Independent:
They analysed 11 studies involving over 6,000 people with pancreatic
cancer. The results showed red meat consumption also increased the risk
of the cancer for men by 29 per cent for each daily serving of 120
grams. But there was no significant increase in risk for women, raising
doubts about the robustness of the finding.
I suspect that the researchers are more concerned about the robustness of their funding than their finding - note that they analysed 11 studies by others, not their own. No doubt they will now obtain the funds to embark on a long and fruitful study of their very own.
Cynic - moi?
Not really. As what the press would term a "cancer survivor" myself I am all for good solid research - but I am also all for honest presentation of the facts. It is regrettable that researchers feel compelled to present their findings in such sensationalist terms to get the backing that they need. This sort of misrepresentation of the real facts can sometimes get out of hand and destroy people's livelihoods. I bet our local butchers, pig and beef farmers loved it - not.
And if you think I'm over-egging this point, cast your mind back to another case of over-egging by Edwina Currie. That destroyed many egg producers almost overnight, both feathered and human.
Labels: Food and Drink, Health, Scares