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Comment: Statistics.. (Score 1) 146

by BeckyGrz (#45627323) Attached to: After FDA Objections, 23andMe Won't Offer Health Information

I had taken a 23andme test out of curiosity about ancestry and a type of cancer that ran in the family that is known to have a very strong genetic link. Before taking it though I read reviews/commentary from all over the web and I noticed one glaringly obvious reality. People don’t get statistics very well, and even those that do have a blind spot when it comes to odds that affect them. (lottery methods anyone?)

All over you see negative comments saying that the test is garbage because it said I had reduced chance of getting this and I already have it, or the opposite. There’s some cognitive dissonance there that might just be a part of human nature, nowhere on 23andme or other sites that I have looked at do they every say you will get this or you won’t get that. Heck even on the cosmetic results such as what hair or eye color it’s a likely will/likely won’t statement.

Sadly I can see one area which might be one of 23andme’s problems was something that I saw as a strength. In the initial presentation of results it dumbs it down to just numbers and a confidence—simplifies in some cases a half dozen tests into one percentage. If you dug down into where the numbers came from they provide links to the studies, sample sizes, dates, and all the scientific info one could ever want. But if you stopped at just those initial numbers and acted on them due to what you feel you know of statistics? Yeah it could cause some trouble/confusion—though still imho much less than those who go and start taking all matter of homeopathic snake oil for that twinge in their back they are sure is cancer.

My test for the most part came back with what I expected: some cool info on where some of my family likely came from and with the regards to the cancer gene I didn’t come up snake eyes. That doesn’t mean I won’t have to go in for regular testing and be vigilant, and it doesn’t really change the way I do manage my health, it just makes me a little bit more knowledgeable about what’s in me and much more curious about what future research holds. If it came back that I have that “bad” gene what would have happened? Likely the same, though I probably would have shared my results with my GP to see what she thought, I’m not a doctor after all.

An inclined plane is a slope up. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"