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    Disembodied statistics such as ‘22% increased risk’ tell you absolutely nothing. What’s the sample size, including sub populations controlled for fair skin etc?

    On the face of it, a 22% increased rate of melanomas in solarium users compared to the general population seems pretty low when you consider that be definition, solarium users a fair skinned; the very group at increased melanoma risk. The study you refer to should have addressed this fact, and most likely did, in which case it would be nice to have that presented in order to give the figure some validity. On the other hand maybe the study was done by good cautious scientists and their caveats were ommitted here because they didn’t play to your narrative?

    Given the figure of 10684 diagnoses a year amongst ~17 million Australians that equate to somewhere in the vicinity of %0.05 of the population being diagnosed in any given year. With such a low rate of occurance amongst any sample population, the statistical significance of a 22% difference between two sub-populations is pretty dubious. Or maybe it isn’t, if the study was very large and carefully performed. But there’s no way of having any idea, because we aren’t given that information.

    We hear a lot about wanting goverments to implement sound ‘evidence based policy’, yet why would they bother when even a Professor of public health makes a policy reccomendation that is almost entirely based on emotion, with a few numbers sprinkled in for flavour?

    I’m not defending solariums, I think they are crazy things that should have been banned long ago. But lets try and treat people with a bit more respect. It is actually possible to explain the statistical significance of objective data and how that impacts on policy in a way that can be understood by non-experts. If you want some tips head over to Possum’s Pollytics blog.

  2. 2

    Simon Chapman

    Chill Bogdanovist, chill! Since when did the convention in Croakey posts require that every piece of data in every post be accompanied by full text biostats? The statement I made was extracted from the linked reports from the NSW Dept of Environment.

    Here’s a review you can look at und Melanom.pdf and here’s an abstract from a paper published just today in Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prevention

    Background: Indoor tanning has been only weakly associated with melanoma risk; most reports were unable to adjust for sun exposure, confirm a dose-response, or examine specific tanning devices. A population based case-control study was conducted to address these limitations.
    Methods: Cases of invasive cutaneous melanoma, diagnosed in Minnesota between 2004 and 2007 at ages 25 to 59, were ascertained from a statewide cancer registry; age-matched and gender-matched controls were randomly selected from state driver’s license lists. Self-administered questionnaires and telephone interviews
    included information on ever use of indoor tanning, types of device used, initiation age, period of use, dose, duration, and indoor tanning–related burns. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were adjusted for known melanoma risk factors.
    Results: Among 1,167 cases and 1,101 controls, 62.9% of cases and 51.1% of controls had tanned indoors (adjusted OR 1.74; 95% CI, 1.42-2.14). Melanoma risk was pronounced among users of UVB-enhanced (adjusted OR, 2.86; 95% CI, 2.03-4.03) and primarily UVA-emitting devices (adjusted OR, 4.44; 95% CI, 2.45-8.02). Risk increased with use: years (P < 0.006), hours (P < 0.0001), or sessions (P = 0.0002). ORs were elevated within each initiation age category; among indoor tanners, years used was more relevant for melanoma development.
    Conclusions: In a highly exposed population, frequent indoor tanning increased melanoma risk, regardless of age when indoor tanning began. Elevated risks were observed across devices.
    Impact: This study overcomes some of the limitations of earlier reports and provides strong support for the recent declaration by the IARC that tanning devices are carcinogenic in humans. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 2010 19(6); 1557–68.

  3. 3


    Sure sure, it’s an over-reaction. But we can’t really blame people for mistrusting “damned lies and statistics” when results are consistantly cherry picked and taken out of context. You’re asking people to sign a petition of the basis of evidence you are presenting, yet your evidence in flimsy in the extreme.

    There has to be a middle ground between your petition text and simply quoting an journal article verbatim, jargon and all (as done in your comment above). As I noted, Possum’s blog shows that this is possible, even if it can be difficult.

    On the standard of evidence that you are expecting people to judge the worth of your petition, one could make watertight cases for almost any policy, from evidence of the success of ‘the intervention’ to draconian laws ‘turning back the boats’ people can, and do, take single numbers out of context and expect that it will seal the arguement. It’s effective because it is simple, but by failing to give context and meaning to the numbers, it’s just as easy to come up with a counter ‘statistic’ that proves the reverse propostion. The end result is that the general public simply ends up trusting no statistics at all, which is why we don’t bother with evidenced based policy; no one cares about evidence or knows how to interpret it anyway.

    When a Professor of public health needs to resort to pulling heartstrings about a single tragic case to make an emotionally driven arguement about cancer prevention policy, how can we expect politicians to do any better? There is absolutely no way that Clare Oliver’s death can be linked to solarium use with any kind of certainty and using this kind of tactic to make a case is something an ad exec or politician might stoop to, a trained academic should know better.

    It’s just one of those things that really bugs me. Evidence based policy is a concept that cuts both ways, not just something we hope polticians and bureaucrats will one day bother with.

  4. 4

    Trish the Dish

    You really sound like such a prize wanker Bogd-etc. Your dismissal of someone like Jay Allen or Clare Oliver as “heartstring” pullers is truly deplorable, as is your cynical crap about Chapman’s efforts to try and remind people that statistics always have real lives and suffering behind them. These are two brave people who had/have the courage to come forward to humanise your precious statistics. Perhaps you think the sick and dying should know their place and stay off your TV? People dying young, unnecessarily of preventable disease do evoke emotions. If it were not emotional, why would anyone care less if 100s of young people die needlessly each year from melanoma. Anyone not understanding that or wanting to diss that reality with your sort of snide cynicism disqualifies themselves from any civilised debate.

    Give people a little credit. If they want to know more about the risks of solaria before signing a petition, they can quickly Google information. Chapman had the courtesy to provide you with links and data and you then call it “jargon”. Get your hand off it mate.

  5. 5


    Trish, have you ever watched the censored part of Claire Oliver’s interview? click on this link to see it for yourself:

    Don’t forget that Australian Solarium industry is not run by some aliens who are here to kill us! they are small businesses feeding Australian families. If we think UV radiation is bad for our nation, we need to change the fashion. closing down solairas will only move the tan fans to their backyards and local beaches where there’s no regulation or control over what they are doing.

    According to several studies, both men and women view a tanned body as more healthy than a pale body. Sun scare tactics employed by dermatologists and sunscreen companies have put undue pressure on the public to avoid the sun at all costs. This creates a conflict between one’s health and the social values of being perceived as healthy or physically attractive. The image one conveys through having bronzed skin is largely responsible for the ever-growing trend of tanning today.

    Good luck,

    Tan Man


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