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Vital Signs

FACTS & FIGURES: Risky business

Looking at likelihood

American Medical News, noting that "misunderstanding risk can lead patients to make decisions that may not be in their best interest," cited the lifetime risk of:

Dying from a car crash if you are in the car
1 in 242

Having a lower limb amputated if you are diabetic
1 in 3,300

Having a severe allergic reaction to the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine
1 in 1,000,000

Dying of measles, mumps, or rubella if you are not vaccinated
1 in 2,5000 to 5,000

Dying of those diseases if you are vaccinated

Calculations about cancer

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a DMS faculty member, just published a book clarifying the benefits and risks of cancer screening decisions. At the . . . well, risk . . . of oversimplyfying a complex topic, here are a few statistics from it:

Rank of colon cancer, among all kinds of cancer, in number of deaths in the United States during 2003

Number of 50-year-old U.S. men who will avoid death from colon cancer in the next 10 years due to fecal occult blood testing
1 in 1,000

Number of 50-year-old U.S. men who will receive no benefit in the next 10 years from fecal occult blood testing
999 in 1,000

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