Misleading the Mainstream

If smoking causes lung cancer the same logic says swimming causes drowning.  We know how much more chance we have of getting lung cancer if we smoke vs if we don’t, generally.  But no one seems to know or care how much chance we have of getting cancer regardless of smoking.

The statistics we most often hear are designed to control us rather than inform us.  It may not be intentional but it is hard to deny the scare tactics.

For example the vaccine against Shingles virus is advertised as 51% effective, but if you read the fine print you find the truth.  of 2.5% of people in the study got the disease without the vaccine, and only 1.3% of the people who got the vaccine.  So the useful statistic is that you reduce your chances of getting shingles by 1% if you take the vaccine.

You can blame the drug companies or the doctors who swallow their line, but the only defense is to read and understand the ideas yourself.  Smoking is the best example.  We all read all the time that Smoking Causes Cancer.  And at some level we all know that does NOT mean that everyone who ever smoked will get cancer.  Many of us don’t think much past that point at all.

It is good for your health to quit smoking.  Not only because of lung cancer but other diseases as well.  Controlling us to quit with lies and half truths is probably a good thing overall.  But in some of us the lies and half truths leads us to distrust all authority,  And when that happens who do we turn to?

There is no substitute for thinking for one’s self.  And it appears to me the problem is the way statistics are presented.  It is more useful to me to find my overall risk of contracting cancer than it is to find how much more or less chance I have than someone else.

Risky behavior should be identified, and smoking is definitely a health risk.  But is it more risky than driving or swimming or mountain climbing? That isn’t very helpful to know.  But we are constantly inundated with statistics that show smoking is more risky than non-smoking as if that is helpful.

In our lifetimes we have a 42% chance of getting cancer of any type and a 23% chance of dying from a cancer.  We have a 7% chance of getting lung cancer and a 6% chance of dying from lung cancer.  This is overall, without separating the data out for smokers and non-smokers or family history or any other issue.  https://tinyurl.com/y7ct546w

Then try finding data about lung cancer in non smokers and you get a mishmash of data that is hard to find meaning.  Ten to 15% of lung cancer appears in “neversmokers” and immediately we are guided to other risk factors that may have contributed to such a cancer.  It appears we are being lead to the idea that all cancer is caused by our behavior, that if we did nothing at all our whole lives but sit in a climate controlled room eating non-cancer causing foods we would not get cancer.  But does anyone believe that is true?  Perhaps we should design some sort of study to that effect.

Regardless the most useful information overall is the risk of getting cancer, which is over the entire population.  If you add risk behavior like smoking to your profile you will raise your risk of getting cancer and lower that of the rest of the population, presumably.

It would be useful to find out how my chances of getting cancer overall change if I eliminate risk behavior like smoking.  Can I find data for non smokers with no substantial family history of cancers?  Difficult to find, but that would be more helpful than knowing that I reduce my risk of lung cancer by 80% if I never smoked.  80% of what?  Of the 7% chance I have of getting lung cancer overall?  The weather man is 80% correct 7% of the time.  The statistics become meaningless and are only used to say “quit smoking”.



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