Thursday, September 6, 2007

CNS QNS (abbreviation)

(Central nervous system/quantity not sufficient) Recently, I have had several patients come in an ask about certain "studies" that they heard on the news and the conslusions that the news reporters have made from them. Generally they are about a certain vitamin or dietary substance and cancer rates. The problems with these studies are that they look at numerous variables and are designed to see if any of the variables group together. They do not say that one variable caused the other.

Unfortuantely, the results of these studies are presented in such a way as to make people think that the vaiables are causal, usually to sell a product or sway a jury. A classic study noted that the incidence of nasopharyngeal carcinoma was higher in patients who ate a lot of fish. Was eating fish the reason? No, the population who ate the fish was of central asian ancestry who had a higher incidence of the carcinoma due to other reasons.

Like most things, studies are all about the spin. Hopefully, we can increase our CNS quantity about statistics and scientific method to avoid the spin.


SeaSpray said...

Hi Throckmorton - THROCKMORTON! Haha! LOL!

Sorry, I'm over it now. Well, no maybe not yet. It's not the image of a Throckmorton sign but more the jokes in some posts/comments that still amuse me in conjunction with the name Throckmorton. (I'd be curious to know what other contributions Throckmorton made)If you ever set up an e-mail address on this site maybe I will e-mail you one of the funnier Throckmorton conversations. ;)

But, I digress. As a lay person, it is frustrating to hear info that is sometimes encouraging, sometimes alarming and then in the end find out the studies were wrong.

One would think there would be some kind of penalty for misrepresentation if it is something that could earn a profit, etc.

SeaSpray said...

O.k., well I guess it is image too. Specifically the Throckmorton radiologic image that had been provided in one of the med blogs that became the catalyst for the rest of the banter. :)

Time to do something productive. As my Aunt Janet would say, "It's time to do SOMETHING, even if it's WRONG!" Lots to get done this month! :)

SeaSpray said...
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SeaSpray said...

Throckmorton-this morning older son sent me an e-mail regarding the health benefits in bananas.

I ended up researching info as I decided to do a post about bananas and thought about your CNS QNS post and so I linked you to my current post in my blog.

I hope you don't mind but if you do, I will remove your link. :)