Nothing seems to gets us more motivated to rekindle our curiosity, cast a gimlet eye and read up on statistics than the news of bacon. Specifically the news from WHO stating eating bacon increases our risk of cancer by 16%.
Where have have seen similar research? There was one about sitting and the increased risk of colorectal cancer. Very similar study based on observational analysis. But that was enough for most to call, “sitting is the new smoking” and even go on to call, “sitting is fatal”. Of course most used this as reason to ask standing desks at work and the vendors who sell these are only happy to use this study for their marketing.
As I pointed out then,
So at 1.24 times relative risk if you are sitting down for 8 hours of work the incidence rate goes from 5% to 6.2%. But what other factors have higher relative risk that you should worry about?
No media or blog bothered to do this analysis with sitting but with bacon they ask the exact same questions I do every time with such studies. Explaining the bacon results, Vox writes
Since a person’s lifetime risk of colorectal cancer is about five percent, daily meat consumption seems to boost that absolute risk by one point to 6 percent (or 18 percent of the 5 percent lifetime risk).
Right way to look at things. Despite being a vegetarian I agree the WHO statistical study means not much to an individual’s cancer risk.
The point is there are many such studies thrown at us from all different places – studies on
- effect of A players on business
- how a star CEO adds value
- how women in board drive company’s stock performance
- walking improves creativity
- taking a shower or nap improves creativity
- how coffee shop noise is good for you
- how yoga helps you
We choose to accept, adopt and move on to solution phase without ever stopping to question unless it is about bacon.
I am glad that media looked at the bacon study critically but I am not holding my breath that this will be repeated for other studies. Unfortunate. In general we would do well to look past such studies.
“This study is really a pile of rubbish, and no one should waste their time reading it,”
Now, does standing up and eating bacon cancel out the effect?