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 am originally from New Jersey and moved to Los Angeles with my family at age 12. After graduating from San Diego State University with a BA in Journalism, I had a short-stint in magazine advertising sales before landing my "dream job" with Club Med. For two years I worked at resorts in Mexico, The Bahamas, The Dominican Republic and Colorado. My husband Glenn & I met in Ixtapa, Mexico and we embarked on a two year honeymoon around the world. This was also a research project for a book we wrote called "When The Travel Bug Bites: Creative Ways to Earn, Save and Stay Abroad." I am also the author of a quote book for new graduates -- "Cheatnotes on Life: Lessons From The Classroom of Life." In 1997, we settled in San Diego and I was blessed to work part-time from home for non-profit organizations while raising our two boys. In 2010, a DCIS diagnosis changed my life. DCIS 411 is the culmination of my on-going journey and discoveries.
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