Saturday, 14 January 2012

Save your bacon

You have no doubt seen the recent shock horror reporting that bacon can increase your risk of pancreatic cancer by 20%. As is usual with these reports you give a much more dramatic and scary impression by quoting relative risk.

The absolute risk is about 13 cases per 100,000 of the population per year, which is pretty long odds, and an increase of 20% increases this risk to at most 16 per 100,000, or 1 in 6250. Hardly significant enough to justify the recommendation for lifestyle change.

If you really want to significantly reduce your risk by lifestyle changes you would do far better to stop smoking, slim down, and maintain good oral hygiene. Add to that only 25% of cases occur in the under 65s. Why do we set out to frighten people, and alter their lifestyle with so little justification?

Surprisingly there is little good evidence that alcohol is a risk factor. So I will have another pint and a bacon buttie then please, and file that research paper in the large black plastic bag where it belongs.

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