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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Are the Odds?

As Regular Readers know, I have displayed uncharacteristic calm in the face of a recent discovery of some decidedly sketchy skin anomalies. As a Card-Carrying Hypochondriac, this type of Finding is typically a one way ticket to The Dark Place--a mental destination in which I wallow in despair over my certain doom. I've done some Hard Time in the Dark Place over possibilities with chances of actually unfolding hovering in the single digits. However, for reasons which remain unclear, I surveyed my odds against possible skin cancer and deemed the whole thing Thoroughly Survivable, a belief that casual conversations with family and even blog comments confirmed.

Imagine my surprise, then, at the publication of the following table in my local paper reporting the Actual Odds of Surviving various afflictions by locality:



For those who may encounter difficulties viewing the area of detail within the image, reference the stats in the "melanoma" block in the "My City" column. Really? Apparently, in My City, not only does every single one of the melanoma victims perish, so also does .8--a full 80%!-- of some other poor, unsuspecting soul. What are the chances? More people die of melanoma than even have it? Long odds, indeed.

Considering my recent gaffes in reading comprehension, I'm willing to concede the possibility that I have completely misread the above table. But what I'm seeing here is melanoma--a form of skin cancer stacked up against some of the biggest Medical Headline Makers and emerging, by far, as the most virulent of the maladies. Now, I do know that not all skin cancers are melanomas--but, frankly, we don't know what we're dealing with here, and let me reiterate: we're looking at an ailment possible of taking out more people than even have the diagnosis.

And you know what? At the risk of losing my own hypochondria diagnosis--I'm still completely unfazed. What are the odds of that?

8 comments:

Bradley J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bradley J said...

No worries, oh ye of the sketchy math, there are no percentages here ... out of every 100,000 people who live in your city, 15.2 PEOPLE get melanoma and 16 PEOPLE die from it (apparently with .8 of those people not knowing they had it). That's 0.00016% of people dying of of melanoma (with 0.000008% not knowing they had it). You would apparently be better off moving to a neighboring community if you were diagnosed with such a thing. Looks to me like sketchy data.

Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

Yes, yes, Bradley J. ( or Mr. Running With Letters, for readers not in the know...) you restated my point exactly, although with a characteristic emphasis on the remoteness of the possibilities of actually becoming afflicted. But don't you find the 100 percent- plus mortality rate alarming? If these stats are accurate, then at least in our city, certain skin cancers are the biggest health threat we have (if you are so unlucky as to contract it). Our maths are equally sound, but we are emphasizing divergent points in this alarming issue.

Pines Lake Redhead said...

That is some screwy math. Every time I go in the sun I think of the day my dermatologist said that I will eventually get melanoma one day. Yikes.

Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

Erica, looking at the more favorable stats for the other areas, my current working theory is that all the melanoma folks in my city must have gone to the same poorly trained dermatologist. In fact, I can think of it least one who would fit the bill...

Jen said...

I'm sorry.. i was so distracted by all the math (a rare thing indeed on this blog) that I think I may have missed the point.. if you need any hypochondria help just call me ;) I'll look it up on webmd!!

Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

Point taken on the breach in the usual format here, Jen, although I am quick to add that I once did an entire post about math :)

http://runningwithletters.blogspot.com/2009/08/summing-it-up.html

Gropius said...

I'm so freaking bad...as soon as I got a clean bill from the dermatologist, I went out in the sun for a few days without any sunscreen...it just feels good to me. Vitamin D anyone? That aside, I too have grown into a complete hypochondriac. I HATE going to the doctor. Hate, Hate HATE.

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