Friday, April 20, 2007

Statistics are not always the blame!

My current MBA student Brenda Martineau showed me a March 15, 2007 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Stupid Cancer Statistics. Makes you almost think that once again someone is abusing statistics -- but wait! A closer look reveals that the real culprit is not the "mathematical models", but rather the variable that is being measured and analyzed!

According to the article, the main fault is in measuring (and modeling) mortality rate in order to determine the usefulness of breast cancer early screening. Women who get diagnosed early (before the cancer escapes the lung) do not necessarily live longer than those who do not get diagnosed. But their quality of life is much improved. Therefore, the author explaines, the real measure should be quality of life. If I understand this correctly, this really has nothing to do with "faulty statistics", but rather with the choice of measurement to analyze!

In short, although a popular habit, you can't always blame all statistical models all the time...
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