Author Topic: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial  (Read 2310 times)

Seriati

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Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« on: March 30, 2018, 04:45:06 PM »
Was watching CBS news this morning and they had a five minute bit on the dramatic and alarming increase in the colon cancer rates of young people.  This is based on some alarming study that found for adults 20 to 39 the rates have increased by 1-2%!

Five minutes went by, worried interviews with real life survivors who "didn't know it could happen," interviews with medical experts that were "alarmed" by the rate of increase, and even flashing of lists of symptoms (that other than rectal bleeding are incredibly common events). 

But you know what WAS NOT covered?  The actual incidence rate.  You have to go find those yourself, seems like a critical piece of information for this massive health problem doesn't it?

So what are the rates, best I can determine, they are roughly between 9 and 10 in 100,000 people of 20-49, which is overinclusive of the group they are discussing, and disagnosis increases with age meaning this overstates the case.  But even using those numbers it's less one in 10,000.  To get to a 2% increase meaning "another" case, it would mean a difference between 45-50 out of 500,000 and 46-51 out of 500,000.  There's about 80 million people in that age group in the US, so were talking about the "alarming" increase at worst being 160 cases a year.

This was presented to the 80 million in that age group as a panic type report.

TheDrake

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2018, 06:06:09 PM »
You were expecting something different from TV morning news? I would suggest that they weren't trying to scare people in that age bracket, but more likely their parents. I don't think 20 year olds typically watch CBS morning news.

Crunch

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2018, 08:42:39 AM »
It’s the culture of fear.

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Popularized by the American sociologist Barry Glassner, culture of fear (or climate of fear) is the concept that people may incite fear in the general public to achieve political or workplace goals through emotional bias.

There's an advantage to having a population that’s essentially becoming afraid of its own shadow. It creates cognitive biases that directly effects decision making and makes people more likely to reject hard facts. In a nutshell, it creates a more easily manipulated society. People are literally frightened into compliance.

Sure, CBS morning news is niche now but watch this meme spread to social media.  How many shares, tweets, links does it get? Google “rise in colon cancer young adults” and see the spread.

The media is lying to us, trying to keep us afraid. Paranoid? Perhaps. But look around you, it’s pervasive.

JoshCrow

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2018, 10:59:48 AM »
People have such a poor understanding of statistics that I think they should entirely replace trigonometry with it in school.

LetterRip

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2018, 11:58:51 AM »
People have such a poor understanding of statistics that I think they should entirely replace trigonometry with it in school.

After seeing how poor people are with statistics after taking a class in statistics I don't think that will do much good.

Fenring

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2018, 01:54:08 PM »
People have such a poor understanding of statistics that I think they should entirely replace trigonometry with it in school.

After seeing how poor people are with statistics after taking a class in statistics I don't think that will do much good.

Yes, because average people are *so* good at trigonometry...

JoshCrow

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2018, 02:48:45 PM »
People have such a poor understanding of statistics that I think they should entirely replace trigonometry with it in school.

After seeing how poor people are with statistics after taking a class in statistics I don't think that will do much good.

Hah, yeah, but people don't use trig in their day-to-day, but they DO encounter stories in the media that involve stats. They can't practice their trig outside of class.

Crunch

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2018, 10:08:20 AM »
People have such a poor understanding of statistics that I think they should entirely replace trigonometry with it in school.

I wouldn’t say replace trig but certainly add some statistics as well as civics. Mathematics teaches logical thinking, something that is clearly lacking.

Back to reporting, I’m not paranoid.

Seriati

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2018, 09:27:28 AM »
People have such a poor understanding of statistics that I think they should entirely replace trigonometry with it in school.

Liked this, but if I could add one class it would be logic.

D.W.

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2018, 10:17:48 AM »
My friends and I were just discussing this online.  Not so much the school angle but logic and logical fallacies.   We already complain that people are too susceptible to skewed data, reinforcing memes and "fake news".  Moving forward things are going to get MUCH worse.  Audio and video of person X saying thing Y will be convincingly realistic.  They will claim they never said any such thing.  You are then left with deciding if the lie is the potentially doctored footage / recording or the denial by person X. 

Teaching students how to be critical, and skeptical, without leading them down the spiral towards paranoia and conspiracy theories is an investment we need to be making right now.  We already know that we can't trust what we read.  Soon we can add in what we see and hear as well.  When your senses could be lying to you at any time, you need a sharp mind to sift through the noise.  We need to teach fact checking.  Or how not to fall for BS 101...

TheDrake

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2018, 10:41:40 AM »
They should have a class that simply teaches skepticism and basic research via internet search. "Wrong until proven right" should be everyone's approach to a meme, news article, scientific paper, contract, speech, and book.

But we have people swearing by books like "The Secret", so there you have it.
 

Seriati

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2018, 10:54:35 AM »
They should have a class that simply teaches skepticism and basic research via internet search. "Wrong until proven right" should be everyone's approach to a meme, news article, scientific paper, contract, speech, and book.

I don't think we can afford "wrong until proven right," the time cost would be too severe, plus many topics are not capable of proof one way or the other, or if they are you'd practically need a Ph.D. to get to the proof.

D.W.

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2018, 11:03:54 AM »
I think it would create a form of social PTSD.  You can't be hyper-vigilant 24/7

Is this information being presented to inform or to provoke a reaction? 

I know awhile back "motive speculation" was a taboo here on Ornery. 

Didn't get it then, and I try to make it a way of life.  Stay open to the possibility you've got it wrong, and if it's something that matters, attempt to confirm your theories, but speculate away!  :D

JoshCrow

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2018, 11:26:09 AM »
My friends and I were just discussing this online.  Not so much the school angle but logic and logical fallacies.   We already complain that people are too susceptible to skewed data, reinforcing memes and "fake news".  Moving forward things are going to get MUCH worse.  Audio and video of person X saying thing Y will be convincingly realistic.  They will claim they never said any such thing.  You are then left with deciding if the lie is the potentially doctored footage / recording or the denial by person X. 

Teaching students how to be critical, and skeptical, without leading them down the spiral towards paranoia and conspiracy theories is an investment we need to be making right now.  We already know that we can't trust what we read.  Soon we can add in what we see and hear as well.  When your senses could be lying to you at any time, you need a sharp mind to sift through the noise.  We need to teach fact checking.  Or how not to fall for BS 101...

I actually do teach a class of incoming freshmen these subjects! Despite being an engineering faculty, I taught a course last year called "What We Know That Just Ain't So" that was about critical thinking (in addition to good college writing/speaking practices). This year I am coordinating the same course across multiple sections, so it will reach about 45 incoming college students.

So far I've used this opportunity to go after myths on the left and right side of the spectrum (the class skews liberal, so I try to push the other way in terms of challenging their ideas even though I'm not much of a conservative).

I teach them the logical fallacies (using clips from "Thank you For Smoking" and even some Monty Python gets in there). But I also teach them current theories on why logic isn't very persuasive and how it often results in the backfire effect. I try to also get them to discriminate between facts and values - and I offer some thoughts on where values come from and why they differ in people (spoiler: I think it's largely genetic, and there's heritability data to back me up).

If anyone has any suggestions for me to incorporate into my class, feel free to suggest stuff! I am making this course up as I go and will teach it again in the Fall.

TheDrake

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2018, 11:34:17 AM »
Okay, proven right is perhaps overboard. How about "lightly checked"?

For instance, actually reading and article before retweeting it because you dig the headline. Or doing a cursory search when you see a meme about Obama hitting a bong in front of an Idi Amin poster. Or, doing what Seriati did when exposed to health fearmongering.

"Those seem like generic symptoms."
"1-2% of what, that doesn't sound like much."

I wouldn't necessarily expect someone to read the study and examine it for p-hacking, or length of time considered, or historical fluctuations.

Turns out, the original reporting may not have entirely been the fault of the news. I just went to the American Cancer Society, and their headline is

"Study Finds Sharp Rise in Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer Rates Among Young Adults"

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Rectal cancer incidence rates have been increasing even longer and faster than colon cancer, rising about 3% per year from 1974 to 2013 in adults ages 20 to 29

So, 3% per year compounded over 40 years is probably a reasonable concern. Not sure if the TV program said "per year" or not, but still a communications failure if they didn't also give the cumulative rise.


D.W.

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2018, 11:35:56 AM »
Glad to hear it JoshCrow.  I just wish kids got exposed to this type of stuff in say early high school or even late middle school.  Learning to learn and how to reason instead of memorizing data for testing.

If your class is intended to tie in with more technology / engineering, I'd defiantly look at stuff like meme propagation, social media engineering and digital face and voice mapping to create passable fabrications. 

All that cool mo-cap and face-cap technology, used to make Golum and his cousins so expressive in movies, paired with life like renderings, paired up with a large enough sample of someone's public speaking can be knit together to fool a lot of people right now, and probably all but a digital forensics specialist within a few years...   

Sure Grand Moff Tarkin looked a bit off in Star Wars Rogue One, but with a bit more lighting changes, film distortion or distance shots?  Who knows.  We're in a time of phone camera footage of police incidents leading to protests.  How much of a stretch is it that an entirely fabricated event could cause a rather large reaction?
« Last Edit: April 02, 2018, 11:41:06 AM by D.W. »

JoshCrow

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2018, 11:59:56 AM »
How much of a stretch is it that an entirely fabricated event could cause a rather large reaction?

The next time a female politician runs for highest office you can expect to see porn deepfakes of them emerge. I predict it will happen to Tulsi Gabbard, in fact, since she's my preferred (presumed) candidate at the moment, and she's of an age where it would seem more plausible.

velcro

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2018, 12:54:51 PM »
Back to the OP:

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Was watching CBS news this morning and they had a five minute bit on the dramatic and alarming increase in the colon cancer rates of young people.  This is based on some alarming study that found for adults 20 to 39 the rates have increased by 1-2%

I found this link, which was just under 2 minutes.  It said that people born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer, compared to people born in 1950 at the same age. That seems pretty dramatic and alarming.

It never mentions the 1-2% increase.

I don't know if this was the same study in the OP.

Seriati, can you provide a link to what you saw?

yossarian22c

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #18 on: April 02, 2018, 01:14:08 PM »
Back to the OP:

Quote
Was watching CBS news this morning and they had a five minute bit on the dramatic and alarming increase in the colon cancer rates of young people.  This is based on some alarming study that found for adults 20 to 39 the rates have increased by 1-2%

I found this link, which was just under 2 minutes.  It said that people born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer, compared to people born in 1950 at the same age. That seems pretty dramatic and alarming.

It never mentions the 1-2% increase.

I don't know if this was the same study in the OP.

Seriati, can you provide a link to what you saw?

This is the problem with saying 1-2% increase in the rate. Did the rate increase by 1% meaning the rate was 1% of people in that age range in 1950 and now 2% of that age range in 1990 or 1% of the age range in 1950 and 1.01% of the age range in 1990. A 1-2% increase in the rate is simply ambiguous language without further context. One of the interpretations would be cause for further study, the second is statistical noise. The first interpretation is more likely b/c the second (should) never be published as an increase.

Seriati

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #19 on: April 02, 2018, 01:56:58 PM »
Velcro, you are seriously asking for a link to CBS morning news? 

I also looked at that study, again, it talks about "double" when the odds for say 20 to 29 year old's are less than one in 100,000.

TheDrake

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #20 on: April 02, 2018, 04:05:17 PM »
BTW, the number 1 cause of death for that age group? Injury 71 per 100,000. Basically, young people just don't get sick or die from anything very often. It may not cause for alarm, but any time something doubles it is worth noting. Especially since the actions are generically good for lots of other cancers and disease (exercise, weight control, diet, alcohol, tobacco). At least until someone figures out how to get 20-somethings to get worthless colonoscopies and drive the cost of health plans up yet again.


DJQuag

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #21 on: April 02, 2018, 05:00:23 PM »
People have such a poor understanding of statistics that I think they should entirely replace trigonometry with it in school.

To be fair, I was in high school a decade and a half ago, and my trig class was literally called "Trigonometry and Statistics."

Trig was ascendent, but we did spend a good portion of time on statistics, how the math works, the easy mental mistakes to make.

This was in Phoenix, Arizona.

velcro

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #22 on: April 03, 2018, 12:51:44 PM »
Velcro, you are seriously asking for a link to CBS morning news? 

I also looked at that study, again, it talks about "double" when the odds for say 20 to 29 year old's are less than one in 100,000.

Yes, I am asking for a link.  If you can't find one, can you list any information that will allow others to verify the information you provide?  Was it a local station?  A national show?  What time was it on?

Here's the abstract of the paper I found.  We can't know if that is what you are referring to, since you provided very little information, but let's go with it.

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Abstract
Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence in the United States is declining rapidly overall but, curiously, is increasing among young adults. Age-specific and birth cohort patterns can provide etiologic clues, but have not been recently examined. Methods: CRC incidence trends in Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results areas from 1974 to 2013 (n = 490 305) were analyzed by five-year age group and birth cohort using incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and age-period-cohort modeling. Results: After decreasing in the previous decade, colon cancer incidence rates increased by 1.0% to 2.4% annually since the mid-1980s in adults age 20 to 39 years and by 0.5% to 1.3% since the mid-1990s in adults age 40 to 54 years; rectal cancer incidence rates have been increasing longer and faster (eg, 3.2% annually from 1974-2013 in adults age 20-29 years). In adults age 55 years and older, incidence rates generally declined since the mid-1980s for colon cancer and since 1974 for rectal cancer. From 1989-1990 to 2012-2013, rectal cancer incidence rates in adults age 50 to 54 years went from half those in adults age 55 to 59 to equivalent (24.7 vs 24.5 per 100 000 persons: IRR = 1.01, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.92 to 1.10), and the proportion of rectal cancer diagnosed in adults younger than age 55 years doubled from 14.6% (95% CI = 14.0% to 15.2%) to 29.2% (95% CI = 28.5% to 29.9%). Age-specific relative risk by birth cohort declined from circa 1890 until 1950, but continuously increased through 1990. Consequently, compared with adults born circa 1950, those born circa 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer (IRR = 2.40, 95% CI = 1.11 to 5.19) and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer (IRR = 4.32, 95% CI = 2.19 to 8.51). Conclusions: Age-specific CRC risk has escalated back to the level of those born circa 1890 for contemporary birth cohorts, underscoring the need for increased awareness among clinicians and the general public, as well as etiologic research to elucidate causes for the trend. Further, as nearly one-third of rectal cancer patients are younger than age 55 years, screening initiation before age 50 years should be considered.

When something increases year over year over year, doubling deaths in young people, I think we ought to pay attention.

Was it overblown by TV news?  Yes.  Is that the slightest bit worthy of it's own post, when there is actual reason to pay attention to the basic facts? 



Seriati

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Re: Misleading Reporting and Scare Tactics - not politial
« Reply #23 on: April 03, 2018, 01:25:07 PM »
CBS seems to have their morning news show available online.  Would be from the morning of March 30th.  And no I'm going to dig out a link for you any more than pointing you in that direction.  If you really need "proof" that they were vague and alarmist knock yourself out.

As far as the actual statistics, I've looked at it a couple of places. Here's one with a lot of general background.

https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures-2017-2019.pdf

I note that you can see the actual rate of change for 20-49 in a chart on page six, which isn't fully helpful in the context of the morning news presentation as they were focused on people in their 20's and actual diagnosis of colorectal cancer is heavily distributed towards the older end of the age scale, and this is true in every age bracket.  So for example, another study I looked at pegged the rate for 20-29 at less than 0.5 per 100,000, where this shows the rate for 20-49 as somewhere around 11.

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From 2009 to 2013, CRC incidence rates decreased by 4.6% per year in individuals 65 years of age
and older and by 1.4% per year in individuals 50-64, but increased by 1.6% per year in adults younger than 50.  Notably, the increase in young adults followed a decade of rapid declines during the late 1970s and early 1980s (Figure 5,). Reasons for the rise in young age groups are unknown, but may reflect an increased sedentary lifestyle and a higher prevalence of obesity and/or unfavorable dietary patterns in children and young adults.

I just point that out, because again the way it's presented can be misleading.  Even what you cited  "normalized" the slope with the claim that the rate has increased 1-2% per year since the 1980s, which if you look at the chart is probably generally flat until about 2000.

Notwithstanding the "increase" in risk, absent risk factors the recommendation is not to get screened until 50 (which, is primarily based on preserving medical resources rather than one's best health outcome, I grant you).