Class 27 – Thursday, December 8, 2011

Plan: False positives (qualitatively). Reports from Book of Odds? Posting from NY Times?

From the time I was twenty until I was 43, I was a poster child for following the rules to ‘prevent’ cancer — not because I ever thought i’d be diagnosed, but because it was my natural inclination to be fit, eat whole grains, fresh produce, lean meats, avoid alcohol, regularly examine myself, do yoga and avoid hormones, x-rays, sunburn…

then at 43 I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. Stage 2. Went through lumpectomies, chemo, mastectomies, reconstruction.

I’ve been cancer free for more than seven years now…

I also enjoy steak — especially when it’s accompanied by a martini.

These recommendations are smart choices for a healthier life, but to suggest they will ‘prevent’ cancer implies that we who have suffered from its ravages are somehow to blame for our illness.

The argument is the common one about anecdotes vs statistics. The healthier life may (or may not) “prevent cancer” statistically – but only statistically, so there will still be many people who get cancer even though they lived well. And the point about blaming the (statistical) victim is well taken!

I wonder whether I will do this in class.

Quick update. We did discuss that quote – it was interesting.


Good discussion about whether people should be forced to buy insurance. The libertarian in the class came around to single payer when faced with the three alternatives

Along the way she said “health care is free in Canada”.


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