31 Days of “Little Known” FACTS — For Breast Cancer Awareness Month — Day 20 — Misleading Statistics

Did you know…

Statistics are often used for breast cancer screenings and treatments that mislead the public into thinking the benefit is way better than it actually is.

“We often hear news reports that something has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer, or reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer. These reports are often misleading because they use numbers representing relative risk reductions.  Absolute risk reduction is what really matters, which is often much lower, and often not reported. What is the difference?

Relative vs Absolute Risk

“Relative risk is used to compare risks between two groups, whereas absolute risk stands on its own. Here is an example: Say there is a clinical trial evaluating a new drug that will prevent breast cancer, and 200 women have signed up. In the control group, 100 women received a placebo pill and two developed breast cancer. In the treatment group, 100 people received the drug and only one person developed breast cancer. The two groups are compared – two developed breast cancer in the control group vs one in the treatment group. A 50% reduction in breast cancer! That sounds pretty good. People who want to avoid breast cancer might consider taking this drug, even if there are side effects. But the reality is that the absolute risk reduction was much smaller. If the risk of developing breast cancer at all was 2%, taking the drug may lower the risk to 1%. So a 1% change in absolute risk of breast cancer might not seem worth it if there are side effects to the drug.”

Below is an excellent video explaining how marketing messages may state “Mammograms reduce breast cancer death by 20%…”

But did you know…this translates into only 1 life saved out of 1,000 women…

See below “fact box” as another good example using absolute #s from Harding Center for Risk Literacy:

About Donna Pinto

I was born and raised in New Jersey and moved to the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles when I was 12. I graduated with a BA in Journalism/Advertising from San Diego State University. After a short stint in magazine ad sales in LA, I was offered my dream job working for Club Med. I spent two years working at resorts in Mexico, The Bahamas, The Dominican Republic and Colorado. My husband Glenn & I met while working at Club Med in Ixtapa, Mexico. We returned to "real life/jobs" for three years before we embarked on a two year honeymoon around the world. Together we wrote a book called "When The Travel Bug Bites: Creative Ways to Earn, Save and Stay Abroad." I am also the author of "Cheatnotes on Life: Lessons From The Classroom of Life," a quote book for new graduates. Becoming a mom changed my life and I was fortunate to work part-time from home with many amazing nonprofits. In 2010, a DCIS diagnosis inspired me to an investigation that culminated in creating DCIS 411 and Give Wellness.
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