Bacon Panic + Poor Math Skills = Easy Money

Yesterday all over the web and on TV shows everywhere (even from sane folks like Jake Tapper) about the horrible terrible news that your bacon will be the death of you.

The WHO findings were drafted by a panel of 22 international experts who reviewed decades of research on the link between red meat, processed meats and cancer. The panel reviewed animal experiments, studies of human diet and health, and cell processes that could explain how red meat might cause cancer.

But the panel’s decision was not unanimous, and by raising lethal concerns about a food that anchors countless American meals, it will be controversial

That’s the Washington Post, at Yahoo they say this:

Each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, the agency estimated.

A 50-gram portion would be the equivalent of eating one hot dog or two slices of bacon. Americans eat about 21.7 grams of processed pork per day, according to a 2011 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Right now a lot of lawyers are licking their chops and a lot of members of the food Gestapo are preparing to demand changes in school heath programs, school diets etc etc and I can feel the sheer panic among shoppers at whole foods from here.

And the reason why this is coming?  Well there are two:

  1. Americans are really ignorant about math
  2. What are the actual odds of getting colorectal cancer?

Question #1 matters because while most people hear the words “18% increase” and think that their odds of getting this disease have gone to better than 1-5 the reality is that means the odds have gone up 18% from what they actually were.  For example if something has a 1% chance of happening if you increase the chances of that thing happening by 18%  the new odds are not 19% as some would think but 1.1%  (1/100) * (118/100) or 118/10000 = 1.1%

And Question #2 matters because we can’t find out what the actual new odds are for a particular event until we know what the old odds are, how will we know what number to multiply by 118/100?

Well the answer to question 2 is available online at cancer.org.  Going by their charts men have a lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer of 1 in 21 or 4.84% and the odds of a woman catching the same disease is 4.49 or 1 in 22

So even though we know that according to the stats given we eat only 43.4% of a hot dog per day on avg let’s assume for the sake of argument that you actually eat a hotdog every single day for your entire life. what does that do to your cancer odds.

Well if you do the actual math and multiply 4.84/100 by 118/100 it mans that 18% increase makes a man’s odds of getting colorectal cancer  go to 5.7% .  For a woman that 4.49/100 multiplied by 118/100 the woman’s odds go up to 5.2%

In other words, if this study is absolutely positively spot on correct eating that hotdog every single day for your entire life raises your odds of catching colorectal cancer by nearly but not quite….1%.

Or to put it another way if you’re a gamer if you eat that hotdog a day then your odds of catching colorectal cancer go from being about the odds of rolling a 1 on a D20 to about the odds of rolling a 1 on a D20.

Now when you put it that way, if you told a guy that giving up bacon decreases your odds of getting cancer by less that 1% most people would decide those odds aren’t worth panicking over and would rightly consider such panic as idiotic.

Which is why newspapers that make a living off of scary click bait, tv shows that make money off of scary click bait, NGO’s that make money off of scary panics, and pols who get big contributions from NGO’s after they get taxpayer-funded grants and colleges who get funding from taxpayer and NGO’s to study these things, and lawyers who make money off of suing successfully profitable businesses, like for example the meat industry aren’t going to show you the math I just did.

It doesn’t fit the meme and there is no profit for them in it.

To be fair, there is absolutely nothing wrong if person decides that 1% increase warrants decreasing one’s intake of processed meats, if an individual thinks the increased risk isn’t worth it it’s their life and their choice to make.

But if you do make that choice do so on the actual evidence not due to panic and deception.

Update: Two Instalances & a hotair headline thanks Sarah Ed & Ed While you’re here in addition to my appeal below check out my election coverage including my exclusive interview with Ted Cruz last week.

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There unfortunately isn’t a lot of profit from letting people know they’re being played. The only pay I get for this work comes from you. My goal for 2015 is $22,000 I’m a full 17k shy as of today.

Given that fact and the discovery that the repairs needed for my car that failed inspection will run between $500-$1000 I would ask you to please consider hitting DaTipJar.




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