Epidemiology is an opportunistic science. It goes where the action is not only in terms of disease and exposure, but also where the tools are. Many epidemiologists are most anxious to use the new molecular and technological tools and to assess exposures better, as well as measure susceptibility.
Molecular: As biomarkers identify subgroups of people with disease these smaller groups can be observed/studied for exposure to risk factors.
Technical: It would be wonderful to have a biological dosimeter for measuring your exposure to benzene from gasoline fumes, or your lifetime level of consumption of fat in your diet. It's difficult to get at these kinds of exposures simply by asking questions.
Researchers are hopeful that the emerging technology from measurement science will provide opportunities in this area. That is an area all of us hope will come to fruition.
The most compelling evidence demonstrating an association between a lifestyle change or exposure and lowered cancer risk only emerges when several different kinds of studies produce the same results. Now that you know what those kinds of studies are and what their strengths and weaknesses might be, you'll be better able to evaluate new pieces of evidence about lifestyle/exposure and cancer, and what they mean for your health.
We have excerpted the information below from a larger article on statistical literacy written and reviwed by: Gigerenzer, G., Gaissmaier, W., Kurz-Milcke, E., Schwartz, L., & Woloshin, S.; Reviewed by Jane Perlmutter.
What You Need To Know To Be Statistically Literate
1. "Learning to live with uncertainty
- Understanding that there is no certainty and no zero-risk, but only risks that are more or less acceptable.
- Knowing what questions to ask about ask about risk-e.g., risks of what?
- Recognizing that risks are all time-based.
- Stating risks in absolute, no relative terms.
- Recognizing that risks apply to specific populations.