CHANCE News 2.03
              (22 Jan to 6 Feb 1993)

Prepared by Laurie Snell

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>>>>>==========>> Someone asked me recently if the famous quote "Lies damned lies and statistics" should be attributed to Mark Twain or Disraeli. It appears regularly in news articles so I looked there. Alas, about half of they time it was attributed to Mark Twain and half of the time to Disraeli. One article said that Mark Twain attributed it to Disraeli in his autobiograpy. I verified this and assumed that I had settled the problem. However, Hal Stern pointed out to me that this was not so. It appears that a John Bibby made a much more thorough study of the problem and concluded that "there must be considerable doubt about the saying's parenthood. "In the process he wrote a wonderful little book of statistical quotes: "Quotes, damned quotes and..." available from John Bibby (Books) 29 Liberton Brae Edinburgh EH16 6AG Scotland A quote a day from this book might liven up our Chance course. Come to think of it would also liven up this column. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Well, I'll be damned if I'll defend to the death your right to say something that's statistically incorrect. Cartoon in "The New Yorker", 7 Jan, 1980 <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Chance issues appeared last week on two TV programs: The DNA fingerprinting controversy was discussed on ABC's Prime Time Live on Thursday 2/5/93 and the controversy over screening for cholesterol was the subject of ABC's Nightline Friday night 2/6/93. We will get the video tapes of these. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Breast cancer research: a special report. Science 29 Jan 1993 A series of articles on current investigations of the causes and ways to prevent breast cancer. The articles are very well written. Particularly interesting are the articles: "Search for a killer: focus shifts from fat to harmones" by Elliott Marshall, (this article includes a statistical portrait of breast cancer), "Zeroing in on a breast cancer susceptibility gene" by Leslie Roberts, (including remarks on genetic counseling: a preview of what's in store) and "Current approaches to breast cancer prevention" by Maureen Henderson (including a discussion of the several large scale clinical trials under way) <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Supreme Court to weight science. Science 29 Jan 1993 Elliot Marshall The supreme court has agreed to try to set some new standards for expert testimony in the courts. This article discusses the differences in the briefs that have been submitted by the experts. These briefs seem to divide into two groups One group that includes Stephen Gould, some well known lawyers and epidemiolists argues that "judges and juries will have to think carefully about the data themselves and not simply defer to publications in peer journals and demand statistical significance". The second group includes AAAS, NAS and the major medical journals. It's leading spokesman Charles Fried argues that testimony from an expert must rest on "a foundation reflecting the generally accepted standards in that field for validating expert assertions" and the most basic requirement is that a hypothesis be "written up, with supporting reasons, and disemminated to the scientific community for the process of independent scrutiny." (In the case that brought this issue to the supreme court a lower court ruled that an analysis by an expert based on her meta study of existing studies that she had not published was not admissible) <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Limited AIDS impact on U.S. seen by panel. Los Angeles Times, 5 Feb 1993, A1 James Gerstenzang An account of a report released by the National Research Council which disputes the idea that the AIDS epidemic will eventually reach all elements of American Society. The report contends that the disease will have only limited effect on much of the nation. It observes that the disease is concentrated in "socially marginalized" groups and predicts that it will disappear because those who continue to be affected by it are "socially invisible". This article remarks that the findings "caught researchers in the medical and public health fields by surprise." There will clearly be more articles on this report by next week. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> SATs are of little use to colleges, study says. USA TODAY, 2 Feb 1993, P.1D Tamara Henry An account of a study by psychologists Jonathan Baron and Frank Norman that concludes that when using class rank and achievement tests, SATs do not change success predictions. The study was reported in Educational and Psychological Measurement. Winter 1992 v 52 n 4. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Super Bowl gaffe; Groups back off on violence claims. Boston Globe, 2 Feb 1992, Pg. 1 Bob Hohler Fair (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) reported before the Super Bowl game that domestic violence increased 40 percent on Super Bowl Sundays. Their claims were supported by other groups and led to NBC including a 20-second television spot on the horror of domestic violence during the broadcast of the game. Fair and many of the other groups now admit that their 40 percent figure was anecdotal and some advocates for battered women feel that this event hurt the credibility of the movement to curb domestic violence. There did not appear to be a significant increase in such violence after this year's game. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> 'U' study tests calcium as a cancer preventive. Star, Tribune 20 Jan 1993 Gordon Slovut U of Minnesota scientists have given calcium tablets to people at high risk of cancer of the colon and rectum to see if the mineral will prevent the development of pre-cancerous changes. This 3 year project involves 190 people who were randomly assigned a placebo, 1,000 mg of calcium, or 2,000 mg of calcium each day. It will take another year to finish the analysis, which should indicate in the calcium prevented rapid cell turnover. This study appears to be based on some evidence that people who consume high levels of milk and dairy products are less likely than others to develop cancer of the colon and rectum. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Elusive Threat. Wall Street Journal, 5 Feb 1993, p A1 Bill Richards An account of the of a Seattle attorney Michael Withey pursuing EMF-based claims and the fear of industry experts that if successful the industry could end up paying out billions of dollars. The article reviews the conflicting evidence and the efforts of the industry to move lines that might be considered risks. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Electronic products; are they friend or foes? USA TODAY, 4 Feb 1993 Cathy Ward A question and answer interview with an expert on the possible health risks from electronic products such as cellular phones, electric blankets, and power lines. The articles gives general advice for those concerned about such issues and mentions that good sources of additional information are: United States Environmental Protection Agency 202-260-7751 and the California Department of Health Services 510-540-2669. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Breast implants raise more safety issues: research links silicone version to new diseases. Wall Street Journal, 4 Feb 1993, B1 Thomas Burton Medical researchers are linking silicone-gel implants to diseases of human immune system that have never been seen before. It is predicted that their conclusions will affect the course of litigation over liability involving silicone implants. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> How the mind can heal the body; medicine's new frontier. USA WEEKEND, 7 Feb 1993 Bill Moyers Bill Moyers talking about his three years of research on the evidence for success of methods of treatment that involve meditation, yoga, placebo effect etc. For his complete findings see his book "Healing and the Mind" coming out this week by Doubleday. This will be a companion to the five part PBS series Healing and the Mind that starts Feb. 22. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Body and Soul. Washington Post, 5 Feb 1993, Page B5 Margaret Mason A discussion of the survey published in 28 Jan New England Journal of Medicine that showed that about one-third of American adults are using some form of "unconventional" therapy. They spent about as much money (around 10 billion) on this therapy as they did on health care. (A little misleading because of health insurance). The survey also found that the majority of users (7 out of 10) did not discuss this therapy with their medical doctors. Unconventional in this study means that it is not normally taught in medical schools. The article includes a discussion of the report with David Eisenberg who headed the study. Eisenberg directs a new course at Harvard Medical School on "'Nonconventional', 'Unorthodox', Medical Techniques. He also hopes to help create centers that would employ senior clinician scientist to conduct randomized clinical trials to test unconventional therapies. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> In the longevity game, the score is females 6, males 0. Chicago Tribune, 31 Jan 1993 Edward Dolnick At conception, male fetuses outnumber females by about 115 to 100; at birth, the ratio already has fallen to about 105 boys to 110 girls. By about age 30 they equalize and then women increasingly outlive the men until beyond age 80 their will be twice as many women as men. The top diseases kill men faster than women. The one thing that men to better than women is to kill each other and themselves. This article compares many other such differences and describes the debunking of various explanations for women being healthier -- men are under more stress for example. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Now, a report that sleeping can bring on a heart attack. The NYTimes, 4 Feb 1993 A report in this weeks New England Journal of Medicine describes a study investigating heart rate and blood pressure during sleep on eight healthy volunteers. The researchers found that during most stages of their sleep the heart rate and blood pressure fell and the sympathetic nervous system grew less active. The exception was during rapid-eye-movement, REM, the stage when dreams occur. During this time the heart rate and blood pressure rose to the level seen during waking hours and the sympathetic nervous system increased to twice the normal state. Researchers have noticed that the hour after people rise is the most dangerous time for the heart and have wondered why. Since people dream the most just before waking up in the morning, the authors of this study speculate that this might help explain why there are more heart attacks in the morning. Dr. Muller who pioneered the study of time differences in heart attacks is skeptical of the dream theory and says "While this study adds something to the question of what triggers a heart attack, the mystery remains." <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> An early gauge of heart risk. USA TODAY, 4 Feb 1993 Tim Friend A study reported in this weeks New England Journal of Medicine followed 1,017 white Johns Hopkins medical students (average age 22) from 1947 to present. Compared with those whose cholesterol levels in 1947 were in the lowest 25% of the group, those in the highest 25% had: 3.5 times greater risk of any cardiovascular disease, 6 times greater risk of heart attack and 9 times greater risk of death due to heart disease. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> Stick with the super bowl to the bitter sweet end. San Francisco Chronical, 29 Jan 1993, A23 H. Cooper, F. Mosteller A newspaper account by the authors of their study reported in the current Chance magazine (reported in last weeks chance news) about how well you can predict the outcome of a sporting even given a late score and how significant is the hometown advantage. <<<========<<

>>>>>==========>> !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CHANCE News 2.03 (22 Jan to 6 Feb 1993) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please send suggestions to: jlsnell@dartmouth.edu >>>==========>>|<<==========<<<