Letter From Lancet Editor

June 22nd, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, letters, scare stories, statistics | 2 Comments »

Health risks

Wednesday June 22, 2005
The Guardian

I would add one vital element to Ben Goldacre’s sensible list of requirements for understanding health risks (Risky business, June 20). It is essential to convey the reliability of the evidence that underpins the risk. Much risk-related research is based on observing statistical associations between an exposure and an outcome. But this kind of work is notoriously unreliable and can give only a snapshot of work in progress.

For the research to deliver reliable information on risks, huge numbers of people have to be studied. But most research is done on only tiny samples of the population. Medical journals and journalists need to explain just how secure the findings they are reporting really are.
Dr Richard Horton
Editor, The Lancet


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