For John, BLUF: Risk assessment is not just statistics, but also requires communications skills. Nothing to see here; just move along.
At this location is a chart that compares breast cancer outcomes with and without mammography screening. The numbers say it is a wash.
On the other hand, my wife is a breast cancer survivor, as is the GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, who underwent a double mastectomy in March of 2009.
The data in the chart linked to above is from the Danish Harding Center for Risk Literacy. This is an important, but little followed field.♠
Should I have a flu vaccination or not? Is it safer to travel by car or by plane? Can early-detection screening tests for cancer prolong my life? Questions like these are the research focus of our team of scientists led by Professor Gerd Gigerenzer, director of the Center.Regards — Cliff
♠ One of my favorite examples of the problem of communicating risk was the run-up to the first Gulf War. The US National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for Warning, Mr Charles Allen, issued, about a week before war broke out, a warning of a 60% chance of war. What does that mean? How serious a problem is Mr Allen describing? The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said, to an internal Joint Staff meeting, there would be no war—said it a day before Iraq actually invited Kuwait. They weren't impressed. On the other hand, I was, but was not in a position to influence events. Understanding risk is important, but not always helpful.