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Originally published May 3 2006

Lying with statistics: How conventional medicine confuses the public with absolute risk vs. relative risk

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

Which drug would you rather take? One that reduces your risk of cancer by 50 percent, or another drug that only eliminates cancer in one out of 100 people? Most people would choose the drug that reduces their risk of cancer by 50 percent, but the fact is, both of these numbers refer to the same drug. Theyíre just two different ways of looking at the same statistic. One way is called relative risk; the other way is absolute risk.

Here's how it works: Letís say that in a trial involving 100 people, two people would normally get breast cancer during the trial duration, but when all 100 people are put on the drug, only one person gets breast cancer, meaning the reduction of breast cancer is one person out of 100. Yet the pharmaceutical industry will exclaim that the relative risk reduction is 50 percent because one is 50 percent of two. In other words, the risk is cut in half from a relative point of view.

The headlines promoting this drug, therefore, will always talk about the relative risk -- "A whopping 50 percent reduction in risk!" -- and these headlines will be parroted by the mainstream press, medical journals, the FDA, doctors and drug marketing reps who are always pushing and exaggerating the supposed benefits of their drugs while minimizing their risks. Because, you see, even though this drug may help one out of 100 people, its side effects create increased risks to all 100 people. Everyone suffers some harm from the potential side effects of the drug, even if that harm is not immediately evident. Yet only one out of 100 people was actually helped by the drug.

When you look at drug claims, especially new miracle-sounding claims on drugs like Herceptin, be aware that these statistics are routinely given as relative statistics, not absolute. The numbers are distorted to make the drugs look more effective than they really are. Herceptin, for example, produced only a 0.6% absolute reduction in breast cancer risk, yet the medical hucksters pushing this drug are wildly screaming about it being a "breast cancer cure!" and demanding that practically all breast cancer patients be immediately put on it. Yet it's not even effective on one person out of a hundred. See my Herceptin Hype article for more details.

Reverse the perspective for natural treatments

At the same time, when conventional medicine promoters want to discredit a natural substance, an herbal remedy or the effects of nutrition on health, they always talk about absolute risk. If taking green tea supplements reduce the risk of cancer by that same 50 percent, eliminating cancer in one out of 100 patients, the news about that supplement would be something like this: "Green tea doesnít work. Only helps one out of 100 patients."

In fact, a study comparing some anti-cancer drug with green tea might report: "New breakthrough drug reduces cancer risk by 50 percent! Green tea only helps one out of 100."

Itís the old joke about an Olympic race between the United States and the old Soviet Union. In the race, there were only two participants. The Soviet runner came in first, the U.S. runner came in second, but the U.S. newspapers reported, "U.S. Wins Silver Medal, Soviet Union Comes In Next to Last."

Now you know how drug companies, the FDA, the popular press and many doctors lie with this numerical shell game. It's a clever way to promote the minuscule benefits of pharmaceuticals while discrediting the enormous healing effects of natural remedies.

Now, do you want to hear some real statistics on cancer? Iíll share a few. Out of every 100 women who might get breast cancer, 50 of them can avoid breast cancer by simply getting adequate levels of vitamin D in their body, and thatís available free of charge through sensible exposure to natural sunlight, which produces vitamin D. This vitamin, all by itself, reduces relative cancer risk by 50 percent, which is better than any prescription drug that has ever been invented by any drug company in the world.

Combine that with green tea, and your prevention of breast cancer gets even stronger. Even the World Health Organization says that 70 percent of all cancers are preventable, and in my view, that number is conservative, because if you combine sunlight therapy and green tea with anti-cancer herbs, anti-cancer foods such as garlic, onions, raw broccoli and raw sprouts, plus some rainforest herbs that are well-known for inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, then you can boost your cancer prevention success to well over 90 percent.

Thereís nothing in the world of pharmaceutical medicine that even comes close. Yet the only thing youíll ever hear from the drug company-controlled mainstream media, medical journals, the FDA and most old-school doctors is that natural remedies are useless, but prescription drugs have all been scientifically proven. Sure they have, if you fall for the relative risk gimmick and can't do basic math.

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