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achiles's picture

using science as a weapon

 I wanted to touch on the scientific bias of these two NY Times articles. I was really underwhelmed by the argument against annual breast cancer testing- largely because the research behind this recommendation just isn't good enough. I can't for the life of me understand why we would make such a serious and life-impacting decision based on a 7 year study of 54,000 women in the UK. Further limiting was the shallow interpretation of data. I won't babble on this particular point- others have discussed this in their posts.

But I do want to call attention to the brief shout out to similar guidelines for gynecological exams. It was only in recent years that doctors discovered the link between HPV and cervical cancer. An estimated 50% of the sexually active population has been exposed to HPV, and many (half, one might say) of them are at high risk for cervical cancer. Now, more than ever, young women should be screened. 18 year olds ARE being diagnosed with cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can be deadly. Why are we even discussing foregoing minimally invasive, largely painless, and risk-free (in terms of personal health) procedures that could, and have, saved lives?! The argument against testing is nothing more than an attempt at frugality on the behalf of health care providers. 

But not very many people pay close attention to science news and these articles will be widely disseminated and read by many. And, as we've discussed, many people take published scientific research as the gospel Truth. Even in class last week, someone said something to the effect of "well I guess it's true if the statistics say so." So, this article will use its questionable statistics, methods, and terminology to convince many that testing is "dangerous," a word strategically used to invoke fear. People will think that testing may cause them bodily harm.

This is just another example of the power of science in the formation of public opinion. And as long as people believe it to be irrefutable, it will continue to be the weapon of choice for politicians, et al. This time, pardon the wordplay, it could be deadly. 


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