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dc.contributor.authorBlair, Aaron
dc.contributor.authorSaracci, Rodolfo
dc.contributor.authorVineis, Paolo
dc.contributor.authorCocco, Pierluigi
dc.contributor.authorForastiere, Francesco
dc.contributor.authorKogevinas, Manolis
dc.contributor.authorMcMichael, Anthony
dc.contributor.authorPearce, Neil
dc.contributor.authorPorta, Miquel
dc.contributor.authorSamet, Jonathan
dc.contributor.authorSandler, Dale P.
dc.contributor.authorCostantini, Adele Seniori
dc.contributor.authorVainio, Harri
dc.contributor.authorGrandjean, Philippe
dc.contributor.authorKriebel, David
dc.date.accessioned2010-11-29T18:16:43Z
dc.date.issued2009
dc.identifier.citationBlair, Aaron, Rodolfo Saracci, Paolo Vineis, Pierluigi Cocco, Francesco Forastiere, Philippe Grandjean, Manolis Kogevinas, et al. 2009. Epidemiology, Public Health, and the Rhetoric of False Positives. Environmental Health Perspectives 117(12): 1809-1813.en_US
dc.identifier.issn0091-6765en_US
dc.identifier.urihttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:4592390
dc.description.abstractBackground: As an observational science, epidemiology is regarded by some researchers as inherently flawed and open to false results. In a recent paper, Boffetta et al. [Boffetta P, McLaughlin JK, LaVecchia C, Tarone RE, Lipworth L, Blot WJ. False-positive results in cancer epidemiology: a plea for epistemological modesty. J Natl Cancer Inst 100:988–995 (2008)] argued that “epidemiology is particularly prone to the generation of false-positive results.” They also said “the tendency to emphasize and over-interpret what appear to be new findings is commonplace, perhaps in part because of a belief that the findings provide information that may ultimately improve public health” and that “this tendency to hype new findings increases the likelihood of downplaying inconsistencies within the data or any lack of concordance with other sources of evidence.” The authors supported these serious charges against epidemiology and epidemiologists with few examples. Although we acknowledge that false positives do occur, we view the position of Boffetta and colleagues on false positives as unbalanced and potentially harmful to public health. Objective: We aim to provide a more balanced evaluation of epidemiology and its contribution to public health discourse.Discussion Boffetta and colleagues ignore the fact that false negatives may arise from the very processes that they tout as generating false-positive results. We further disagree with their proposition that false-positive results from a single study will lead to faulty decision making in matters of public health importance. In practice, such public health evaluations are based on all the data available from all relevant disciplines and never to our knowledge on a single study. Conclusions: The lack of balance by Boffetta and colleagues in their evaluation of the impact of false-positive findings on epidemiology, the charge that “methodological vigilance is often absent” in epidemiologists’ interpretation of their own results, and the false characterization of how epidemiologic findings are used in societal decision making all undermine a major source of information regarding disease risks. We reaffirm the importance of epidemiologic evidence as a critical component of the foundation of public health protection.en_US
dc.language.isoen_USen_US
dc.publisherNational Institute of Environmental Health Sciencesen_US
dc.relation.isversionofdoi:10.1289/ehp.0901194en_US
dc.relation.hasversionhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2799452/pdf/en_US
dash.licenseLAA
dc.subjectepidemiologic methodsen_US
dc.subjectfalse negativesen_US
dc.subjectfalse positivesen_US
dc.subjecthyped findingsen_US
dc.titleEpidemiology, Public Health, and the Rhetoric of False Positivesen_US
dc.typeJournal Articleen_US
dc.description.versionVersion of Recorden_US
dc.relation.journalEnvironmental Health Perspectivesen_US
dash.depositing.authorGrandjean, Philippe
dc.date.available2010-11-29T18:16:43Z
dash.affiliation.otherSPH^Environmental+Occupational Medicine+Epien_US
dc.identifier.doi10.1289/ehp.0901194*
dash.authorsorderedfalse
dash.contributor.affiliatedKriebel, David
dash.contributor.affiliatedGrandjean, Philippe
dc.identifier.orcid0000-0003-4046-9658


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