Monday 4 November 2013

99.99% of Terminal Cancer Patients have 10 toes

How did you react to the title?

‘Poor Felicity, she’s finally lost it’?

Or just ‘that’s weird’.

Whatever your reaction, it probably wasn't fearful, and you’re probably not at this moment contemplating chopping off one of your toes to avoid the risk of dying of cancer!

We know the two things (having 10 toes and having cancer) occur together most of the time, but we also know they are not related - having 10 toes does not cause cancer. 

However, a similar title might get a very different reaction:

97% of Terminal Cancer Patients Previously Had This Dental Procedure…

It’s a clever title – it makes you want to click and read, to find out if you’ve had the ‘killer’ treatment (its root canal treatment).

I spotted this title on a facebook link the other day, and, even with my sceptical outlook on things, my immediate reaction to this was unease – not far off ‘I’ve had root canal treatment, therefore I'm much more at risk of terminal cancer’.

Most of us reading this will initially assume that there is a link between the dental treatment and the cancer. 

But, we’re not told (maybe no-one knows) what percentage of the population have had root canal treatment. In the US, apparently 25 million root canal procedures are done per year, so over 15 years that’s 375 million, an average of more than one root canal treatment per person!

So, maybe 97% of the population have had root canal treatment, and therefore this scary statistic is exactly what you would expect, and no more meaningful than having 10 toes…

‘Lies, damn lies, and statistics’ – great phrase. I’m susceptible (momentarily) to this kind of headline, most of us are. And occasionally these scare tactics are used by well meaning people who genuinely want to get a message across. But more commonly, they are after something, often your money, so don’t let them scare you :-)

Not directly relevant to a blog on equine behaviour, but horsey people are targeted for this stuff as much as any other group 
'your horse will get mud fever (and then probably die horribly...) if you don't use this lotion'
'your horse will misbehave and hurt you if you don't buy this head collar' 
and so on...