kevin's blog

BBC website headline wrong shock horror

Bowel cancer screening 'does cut deaths', said the BBC News website today, in a report on a study using data from the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England, published in the magnificently named journal Gut. Wow, I thought, that was quick, the programme has been going only since 2006 and didn't cover the whole country till 2010. Have they really found clear evidence of an effect on death rates already?

Are the Brits really fatter than other Europeans?

Lots of press reports in the last couple of days on how UK women are the fattest in Europe, for example in the Daily Mail and on the BBC News website. I'm still in Berlin, and it was in the papers here too. The tabloid-style Berliner Kurier went with the headline "Man, they are fat, man", while the N24 news service went with "British and Maltese are the fattest Europeans". But is it another dodgy league table?

Divide and rule: getting rates in a mess

I've been a bit inactive in here for a few weeks, because I've temporarily moved to Berlin. But it turns out that one can find bad presentations of risk in the German media too, and here's one, pointed out to me by my new colleague Jan Multmeier. The topic is a serious one: suicide rates in German troops serving abroad, and the error involves dividing by the wrong thing when calculating rates.

Cats, cancer and confusion

If mobile phones don't cause brain tumours, what does? Well, according to stories today in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, it might be cats. Or at any rate a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, one of whose hosts is the domestic cat. But don't go exiling your kitties yet; the admirable Ed Yong has explained in his blog that the study in question doesn't establish anything of the sort.

Mobile phones: where did the story go?

This Friday's xkcd comic was about mobile phones and cancer. Regular readers of UU will know that I've shown an interest in that subject before, here, here and here. The main point of the comic was good, but what's this "another huge study" on phones and cancer in the first frame of the comic, and why hadn't I heard about it?

World cup cephalopod fever

World cup fever is again gripping the globe - well, perhaps not so strongly as last time, but the Women's World Cup football finals are about to begin in Germany. And as the excitement builds, the aquarium chain that brought us Paul the "psychic" octopus is rising to the new challenge. Paul himself has ascended to the great aquarium in the sky, so the search is on for a worthy successor

Spinning mobile phones

When it comes to causing cancer in humans, is using a mobile phone as risky as talcum powder, or as risky as coffee, or as risky as the notorious insecticide DDT? Actually we don't know, as I explained in my previous blog entry on last week's IARC announcement on mobile phones and brain cancer. That didn't stop the media comparing the risk of mobile phone use with all these things and more. But why did different newspapers make different comparisons?

Mobile phones: where's the uncertainty?

The media in the UK and many other countries have been full this week of stories about mobile phones and brain cancer. Some were really pretty scary - the Daily Express gave a SHOCK WARNING: MOBILE PHONES CAN GIVE YOU CANCER. But others were much more cautious. The BBC reported that a link between phones and cancer was "not clearly established" and that "the evidence was too weak to draw strong conclusions from." What's going on?

Statistician's ESP prediction comes true!

In our article on ESP and the significance of significance, I made a prediction on the controversy surrounding psychologist Daryl Bem's paper "Feeling the Future" - the one that claimed to find evidence for some forms of ESP (extra-sensory perception). "This one will run and run", I boldly prophesied. And so it came to pass.

Coffee and breast cancer

The media today are full of reports that women who drink lots of coffee might reduce their risk of developing one type of breast cancer. For instance, the BBC reported on it here, and the Daily Mail here. But is the evidence really there?

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