Smoking and Death

Dear Students,

I get excited whenever I see any of our course's terminology in the newspaper, for such occurrences validate the relevance of what we're studying for what you do "out in the real world."

Well, I got excited yesterday when I turned to page 11 of the front section of our local paper. At the top of that page, there was a short article entitled, "Study: Smokers' Wives Not At a Greater Risk of Breast Cancer Death." In the last sentence of this article, I saw the term "statistically significant," a term that we've been considering during the past few class sessions.

The final 2 sentences that caught my attention said this: "The result, said Artenberg, showed that among the 669 women who died of breast cancer there was no statistical suggestion that ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] increased the risk for the women who lived with smokers. 'Breast cancer mortality rates did not show a statistically significant increase with the number of packs of cigarettes smoked by the spouse, the duration of spousal smoking, or the pack-years of smoking,' the study said."

Do you think this finding ("...did not show a statistically significant increase") is revealing the truth? Or, might it be a good example of a Type II error?

Sky Huck

Copyright © 2012

Schuyler W. Huck
All rights reserved.

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