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Medicine

Visualizing False Positives In Broad Screening 365

AlejoHausner writes "To find one terrorist in 3000 people, using a screen that works 90% of the time, you'll end up detaining 300 people, one of whom might be your target. A BBC article asks for an effective way to communicate this clearly. 'Screening for HIV with 99.9% accuracy? Switch it around. Think also about screening the millions of non-HIV people and being wrong about one person in every 1,000.' The problem is important in any area where a less-than-perfect screen is used to detect a rare event in a population. As a recent NYTimes story notes, widespread screening for cancers (except for maybe colon cancer) does more harm than good. How can this counter-intuitive fact be communicated effectively to people unschooled in statistics?"

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