stat counnnter

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm Impressed!

Today Mike's Eyes had the pleasure of reading a health article by a reporter who seems to understand something about statistical studies. In today's Detroit News (www.detnews.com) print edition there is an Associated Press article by Lindsey Tanner titled "Review finds fish oil doesn't cut cancer risk" with a sub title "Omega-3 fatty acids have little, no effect on the disease, studies involving 700,000 people show."

What I liked was that the reporter included dissenting opinions and caveats such as this paragraph:

"Researchers examined data from 38 studies that tracked patients for up to 30 years, and said most showed there is no cancer protection from Omega-3 fatty acids. Although a few studies found some risk reduction for cancers of the breast, prostate and lung, those studies were relatively small and not definitive, said Catherine MacLean, the lead author and a researcher at the Rand Corp. and Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

'It doesn't mean that omega-3 fatty acids don't have other health benefits-it's just that reducing cancer risk isn't one of them,' MacLean said."

What really impressed me was this next paragraph by the reporter:

"However, the review is unlikely to be the last word on the issue. Diet is known to play a role in cancer and the researchers evaluated observational studies, which provide mostly circumstantial evidence."

This is very true. That's what associations, correlations and links are--circumstantial evidence - awaiting science to step in and conduct an experiment to prove or disprove causation. Most reporters that I've read in the past wouldn't know an observational study from a case controlled study and wouldn't exhibit the desire to find out. For the most part they wouldn't even bother to get a dissenting opinion. They would just regurgitate the talking points of the press release and to hell with presenting a balanced article.

Mr. Tanner not only provides us with his own knowledge of statistical studies but he backs it up with further evidence:

"The 38 studies are too heterogeneous--involving different population groups and different levels of fish oil consumption--to provide a difinitive conclusion about whether fish oil reduces cancer risks, said Julie Buring, a chronic disease researcher at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital, who was not involved in the study."

So does this mean we should give up on omega-3? Hardly. It's not a difinitive study and Mr. Tanner did a good job in letting his readers know that. I think this is a reporter people can trust.



"

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well Mr. Eyes we do agree at least on one thing, 24 is a rock'n good show. I am a little concerned with your position on the ozone stuff and the president. I would love to argue with you but you seem to have actually studied some of this crap. I have a question,is there any such thing as an intelligent liberal. you see Mike, I am a liberal, I don't wake up in the morning and go over the 'agenda notes' and I haven't killed babies (i have hugged a few trees though) I am asking about liberal intelligence because I find it hard to believe that each group can believe the other to be so absolutely wrong. could you please help me out with this. Also how does this political polarization compare with your thoughts on your remarks regarding MLK day.

Mike N said...

Anon, glad you liked 24. But I get the idea you are trying to bait me into saying something on which you can pounce. You say you're a liberal but you ask if I think there is such a thing as an intelligent liberal. What kind of worm are you dangling in front of this fish?
You say you don't wake up in the morning and go over the 'agenda notes.' I do, so to speak. My agenda is to advocate laissez-faire capitalism, rational self interest and an epistomology of reason.
I have never hugged a tree (while sober anyway). It is a good thing that you haven't killed any babies. Neither have I. But abstaining from doing evil is not the same as doing good.
You seem to believe that polarization is a bad thing. It isn't. Polarization means that people are free to disagree openly.
There was no polarization in Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany. None is Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia or today's Cuba or North Korea. Those polarization free societies were not desirable places to live. Polarization means that free people agree to disagree and by doing so they let reality be the final judge, for reality will eventually prove one side right and the other wrong or perhaps both wrong and a third way right. This process cannot happen if polarization is not allowed.
There, I think I have answered your questions but feel free to ask more if need be.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Eyes, I think you no fish. But rather an elder, from whom I can hope to gleen some wizend point of view. If ever I pounce take note of my posture, you will clearly find a bumbling liberal falling ass-backwards, easily sidestepped. Thank you for your speedy response. I guess my fear with the polarization is not so much the dissagreement but rather on the insistance of disagreement. while the republicans and democrats keep you and me defending our 'side' they do very little. I can appreciate that doing little may be best but letting things like levies and education systems fail so miserably and then come back to us and use the other guy as the scape goat is just a shame. I would like to live in the greatest country on the earth. I don't believe that saying it means it's true. We all seem to be so wrapped in our points of view and our wonderful 'right' to disagree, I guess my question is when will we agree, when will our leaders lead instead of hide behind the road blocks of the other guy -the world seems to be spinning faster and the further we all place ourselves from the center the more likely we are to break apart. I am proud to be an American I just want to be proud of America. Ok so maybe I just want to blather on -

Anonymous said...

PS. sorry about the spelling

Mike N said...

Anon:
You ask when will we agree. Probably not for a long time. There are two kinds of agreement: 1 is when people agree on concretes like how best to exercise our right of travel through a particular intersection, stop sign or signal light?, and 2 on principles like is man free to travel by right or by government permission?
The polarization of today is mostly of the 2nd kind. It's a battle between capitalism and socialism in politics, between individualism and collectivism in social theory and between principles and pragmatism in epistomology.
But agreement for agreement's sake shouldn't be anyones goal. The concept agreement has no value outside the context of that which is being agreed upon. (this is a major fault of the UN, worshiping agreement for agreement's sake while ignoring substance which will always happen without the guidance of principles)
The only way everyone will agree with everyone is when everyone shares the same fundmental principles. The only way that will happen is if we make sure we maintain a free and open society where ideas can be seen and discussed. Eventually, truth will out as they say.
You also say you want to be proud of America. To me, this sounds like you're searching for America's true value. Let me put it this way: America is based on the idea that every man has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; America is a work in progress and always will be. The question is, do you want to be part of that process? I sure do and if you answered yes to that question then get prepared for some serious polarization.